STEPPING INTO A JEWELRY STORE in Alexandria, Minn., 45 miles from his soybean farm, Dan Ellison was as nervous as a kitten at a dog show. At 38, he had never shopped for an engagement ring, and it took him almost an hour to settle on a¾-carat solitaire. And one more thing, he asked, "What happens if she says no?" Ellison was relieved at the jeweler's response: "I could bring it back."
But Gwen Fredrickson, 31, said yes, and Dan Ellison, the most eligible of the once-famous bachelors of Herman, Minn., is getting hitched this fall. Ellison made big news in the winter of 1994 when, in a speech for the town business association, he lamented that so many women had fled the rural hamlet of 485 for city jobs. Left behind were 78 bachelors competing for the town's 10 single women and contemplating a lifetime of lonely nights. That changed, though, when the media got wind of the guy glut in Herman, 150 miles northwest of the Twin Cities. Women from as far away as Texas came for a look-see, and after he appeared on the Today show, Ellison himself was beset by letters. Before long, three bachelors had wed and another 20 or so single women had moved to the area. But for months, Ellison was too involved helping newcomers to go courting himself. "Can you imagine," laughs Fredrickson. "Busloads of chicks showing up to meet Dan—and he's too busy."
Fredrickson fell in love with the town before she fell for Ellison. The former surgical nurse had read the Herman stories in Minneapolis and moved to Herman because she wanted her boy, Bobby, now 4, to enjoy the simple life she'd known as a child in Cloquet, Minn. "You're walking down the street, strangers say 'Hi,' " she says. "It was instant love." As a business promoter, Ellison helped Fredrickson open a clothing shop, but having been divorced years before and broken up with the father of her child, she wasn't in the market for a man. Still, when Ellison came up for sale during a July charity bachelor auction, she paid $265 to go on a picnic with him. Their first real date came a month later—country dancing and, she says, a "gentlemanly kiss good night." That October, at the local Moonlight Monkey Business festival, they kissed under the stars. "He stole my heart that night," she recalls. A year later, he proposed.
Fredrickson is excited about sharing the Ellison family spread, and Ellison welcomes the idea of a feminine touch around the house. Well, except for the framed tickets from the Minnesota Twins' 1987 and 1991 World Series, which have pride of place in the dining room. "The Twins tickets stay," he says. "Those are sacred." Gwen's not so sure, she teases. "Those tickets are just not going to match my crystal."
BRYAN ALEXANDER in Alexandria
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