Herman, Minnesota bachelors still cherish memories of '90s 'Bachelormania' love hunt

In the tiny town of Herman, Minnesota, there are farm fields as far as the eye can see. It's planting season for crops like corn, wheat and soybeans, but Herman's real claim to fame is sowing the seeds of love.

"It was great. We had a traffic jam at the four corners here for the first time ever in Herman. I'm actually proud of it. There was a need," said former Herman bachelor Gary Findlay.

Gary and Rhonda Findlay have been married for 26 years and have raised five children together. But their more than a quarter of a century-long love affair got off to an unusual start.

"There were 80 bachelors who needed a partner and someone to build something with. I think it was a good deal, and it turned out really well for me," said Gary.

Back in the mid-90's, Gary was one of Herman's 78 bachelors, when the town's economic development coordinator told local leaders Herman needed more women because men outnumbered them 8 to 1.

His remarks made national, even international news, and thousands of single ladies flocked to Herman, hoping for a chance at romance.

"The good book says it's not good that man should live alone, so they created a woman. So where's mine?" said Gary during an interview with FOX 9 in 1994.

At the height of Bachelormania, there were auctions at the Grant County Fair, where local men, including Gary, put themselves on the block hoping to meet someone special.

"$25 to $50. The bids were low. It was not good. It was not good. The next ones went a lot higher, so that was good," said Gary.

Some of the Herman bachelors even went on national TV shows like Leeza Gibbons and Oprah Winfrey. In fact, after Gary was featured in a story about Bachelormania on 20/20, his phone started ringing off the hook.

"It was at least 500 letters and Federal Express, Speedy, the mailman. They were in my yard every day with fruit baskets, bottles of champagne, flowers, and of course all the letters. It was really amazing," said Gary.

One of those letters was from Rhonda, who grew up on a dairy farm in Underwood 53 miles away. She captured Gary's attention and ultimately his heart.

"I was 30 years old. What did I have left to lose? He was close. He was a farmer. I didn't have to go across the state. I could talk cattle to him if anything," said Rhonda.

Gary wasn't the only Herman bachelor who found lasting love during that time. His brother Dan met his wife Bonnie after answering a personals ad Bonnie put in the local paper after watching the same story on 20/20.

"I was kind of excited to do it. It was an adventure and I thought I can tell my grandkids about it," said Bonnie Findlay.

Within a year, they were married and Bonnie had moved to Herman from a small town in New York.

"I think it was great. Ended up with a beautiful daughter. I live out in this nice house in the country," said Bonnie.

All of the attention Herman received at the time seems to have secured it a permanent place in the country's collective consciousness. A movie titled "Herman USA" was even inspired by the town's experiences.

"We'll meet people a long way away and they'll hear Herman and they'll say 'I remember that. They had those bachelors.' That happens a lot more often than you might think, and I think that's good," said Gary.

In all, at least seven of the town's 78 bachelors found wives, but Herman never became the boomtown some predicted.
About 60 newcomers moved to the area, but the population still slipped from just under 500 in the mid-90's to under 400 today.

While some of the farmer's romantic relationships didn't last, the Findlays say Bachelormania helped them cultivate a lifetime of love.

"It was a positive thing. There were children and marriages. It succeeded in what it was trying to accomplish, in that regard," said Gary.