The Bell Museum staffers readied their Champagne flutes. The Bell — and its woolly mammoth — was about to star on national TV.
Since August, they'd kept a secret: "The Bachelorette" and its Minnesota-made star Michelle Young had filmed a date night at the natural history museum.
Last week, at last, they could celebrate it.
"We were just so excited to see ourselves in that unusual stage," said Adrienne Wiseman, the Bell's director of business and marketing.
Cinematic images of the Mississippi River and the Minneapolis skyline. Dates at U.S. Bank Stadium and on Lake Minnetonka. Glimpses of the Guthrie Theater. Shot after shot of the Stone Arch Bridge.
This season of "The Bachelorette" has become a love letter to Minnesota, a state not accustomed to the spotlight. Minnesotans, in turn, blushed.
"THE BACHELORETTE WENT TO THE BELL MUSEUM," one Minnesotan tweeted. "OMG OMG OMG."
Meet Minneapolis is tracking every mansion, stadium and bridge.
The organization got the call last summer from "Bachelorette" producers who were scouting spots, said spokesperson Kristen Montag. Its staff has been "pleasantly surprised" by just how much of the city the series has showcased during the three episodes set here this month.
It comes at a key moment for Minneapolis, which got national attention of a different sort last year with the killing of George Floyd and the unrest that followed. Those images are "burned in people's minds," Montag said.
"The Bachelorette" is offering a different view, she continued. "The fans of the show are maybe seeing that there's another side to Minneapolis."
Never before has the reality series filmed so much in the hometown of the show's lead. That might be partly thanks to Young, a fifth grade teacher and Woodbury High School grad who has argued that "the Midwest is the best."
Here are some Minnesota spots feeling "Bachelorette" love:
Photo provided by the Twins
Young picked fellow Minnesotan Joe Coleman — dubbed "Minnesota Joe" — for her first one-on-one date in the state.
At Target Field, they sported Twins jerseys and smooched, captured by the kiss cam. Photos taken by the Twins show mascot T.C. Bear putting one arm around Young and using the other to push Coleman aside.
"TC tried to steal her," Coleman commented on Instagram, with a laughing/crying emoji.
The pair then visited Woodbury High School, where Young was a prep basketball star, earning a spot on the Star Tribune's all-metro team in 2011. Coleman, too, was a stand-out player, earning the title Mr. Basketball that year.
They shot hoops in the gym, inviting "Love and Basketball" comparisons.
Photo by Courtney Perry, Star Tribune
The pair then headed to Betty Danger's in northeast Minneapolis, a restaurant soaked in kitsch.
There, Coleman opened up about a botched foot surgery that sank him into depression. They rode the Ferris wheel, lit in pink.
"Who would have thought," Young said, grinning at her date. "Two Minnesotans."
Photo by Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune
Young and her date Nayte Olukoya cruised Lake Minnetonka in a pontoon boat, picking up two of her friends at Lord Fletcher's, a lakeside institution since 1968.
The show, which required filming to be "hush-hush," chose the Spring Park restaurant because Young knows and likes it, general manager Chad Nelson said. The crew shot there from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. But in the end, it aired just brief snippets.
"We were happy with it," Nelson said. "Anytime you get your name on national television, it's neat."
Lord Fletcher's has hosted cameras before: A cast and crew — including Woody Harrelson — filmed scenes of the 2017 film "Wilson" there.
The date ended with a nod to the Prince film "Purple Rain."
"In Minnesota, it's tradition to get purified in the waters of Lake Minnetonka," Young told Olukoya before they jumped in.
Photo provided by ABC
The show's rituals — cocktail hours, date-card hand-offs and rose ceremonies — took place at the hotel in Minneapolis' IDS Center.
The Marquette was closed for filming in August. A Hilton spokesperson declined to give more details.
During one episode, Young and a suitor strolled the Nicollet Mall, stopping to dance as a musician, his face blurred, played one of the Pianos on Parade, painted by local artists and placed around the city.
Another downtown scene seemed to take place on the hotel's rooftop. "We love Minnesota!" Young screamed in unison with Rodney Mathews, the Foshay Tower in the background.
"I'm so blessed and honored to be in this beautiful city on this beautiful night with this beautiful woman," said Mathews, who became one of the four finalists.
Photo by Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune
Early in the second episode set in Minnesota, four of Young's fifth-graders announced that they'd be planning the week's dates. Turns out that might have been true.
Producers told the Bell Museum staff that the kids had been there on a field trip and thought it would be a fun date for their "Miss Young," said Bell marketing director Wiseman.
"It sort of spun off between memories of the field trip and the idea of the 'Night at the Museum' movie," she said. "What you could do at a museum after hours if you were the only people there, from a kid's perspective.
"The whole thing was just so sweet."
Echard and Young gasped at the woolly mammoth, captured paper butterflies and, in the planetarium, got a tour of the universe, as told by her students. The moon made a pretty backdrop for making out.
Hosting the crew meant closing an hour early, filming all night and wrapping things up around 4 a.m. The museum, on the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus, hosts weddings and does full-building rentals.
But this was "a unicorn of rentals," Wiseman said — one that doesn't appear in any handbook.
Mill City Museum
Mill City Museum
A red sign signaled a key date spot: "Gold Medal Flour."
Young and Brandon Jones toasted inside the softly lit courtyard of this museum on the Minneapolis riverfront, amid ruins left by a 1991 fire in an abandoned flour mill.
"This is beautiful," Jones said.
After Young pinned a rose on his shirt, the pair kissed outside, the Stone Arch Bridge making yet another cameo.
Photo provided by ABC
A group of Young's suitors trekked to the Miron Family Farm to get their hands dirty "Minnesota-style," as Young put it.
Fran Miron's great-grandparents established the dairy farm in 1887 in what would become Hugo. "At that time, they milked just a few cows by hand," Miron said by phone. Today, the farm, with the help of his two sons, milks some 160 cows via automation.
Miron, 67, was pleased with the show's focus on agriculture: "It really showcased dairy in a good light."
During the date, the men did some milking, churned butter and shoveled manure. (Photos reveal that the men also participated in a butter-carving competition that never aired. Release the footage, ABC!)
Those challenges likely helped Young get a better sense of the men, Miron said.
"If I was looking for a spouse — and I'm not, because I married a good one — I'd look for somebody that has commitment, that's willing to work hard at the relationship, that has compassion for what they do," he said. "That's what we as farmers have."
Photo provided by ABC
U.S. Bank Stadium
"Are you ready to meet the Vikings?" Young shouted to her men, gathered on the field.
But when three men emerged from the smoke, they were no football players. Instead, these Vikings-era reenactors, clad in horns and fur, growled at her suitors.
They instructed the men, now wearing their own furry costumes, to yell, to throw stumps, to eat fermented herring.
Photo by Tom Wallace, Star Tribune
Pine Tree Apple Orchard
Early in the season, Young told the men that "I was never the girl invited to cute dates at the apple orchard in the fall." So fans loved it when finalist Rodney Mathews planned a date at an orchard.
The show filmed Young and Mathews picking, tasting and tossing apples at Pine Tree Apple Orchard in White Bear Lake in late August.
"We didn't tell our spouses or anybody," said Barb Jacobson, who owns the orchard with her five siblings. "We're good secret keepers."
The show was so careful, in fact, that Jacobson never caught a glimpse of Young or Mathews as they filmed in a discreet back corner.
"There is an apple that's only grown here in Minnesota," Mathews told Young. "The name of it is First Kiss."
Young scrunched her nose at him.
"You think I made it up," he said. "I promise the great people of Minnesota made it up."
He's right. The University of Minnesota bred the First Kiss variety, which ripens early. Jacobson is a fan: "Omigosh, it's a fabulous apple."
She hadn't watched much of "The Bachelorette" but tuned in this season. Young seems to have "a lot of good contenders," Jacobson said. Later in the show, though, Young sent home her apple-picking partner, leaving just three men.