Reality Television Puts Whitefish in the Spotlight

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH – Hollywood came to Central Avenue in Whitefish on Wednesday, Oct. 10 to film an episode of the popular ABC reality show “The Bachelor.” The shoot included a concert by country singer Sarah Darling, which shut down Central Avenue in Whitefish from noon to 10 p.m.

Television producers worked with the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Montana Office of Tourism and Glacier Country Regional Tourism Commission to produce the event, which Lisa Jones said was a total success.

“The community support was great – I mean people just came out and got into it,” said Jones, a spokesperson for the visitors bureau.

Although Jones and others involved with setting up the shoot were legally barred from talking about what television show was coming to Whitefish, the rumor mills were churning across the valley before the concert. It didn’t take long for word to get out that “The Bachelor” was coming to town, a fact confirmed by a reality show spoiler blog.

On Sunday, Darling announced on her Facebook page that she would be having a concert in downtown Whitefish for a television shoot. She invited the public to participate in the shoot and, according to Jones, more than 500 people attended.

Around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Darling took to the stage, while cameramen and producers set up equipment. Montana Coffee Traders was temporarily turned into a television production room, with stacks of monitors just inside the door. Once everything was set, a producer got onstage with Darling and told the crowd what to do when the reality show’s couple made their entrance.

While some in the crowd wanted to get the scoop on the upcoming season of “The Bachelor,” most were just curious about the commotion. Among them was Marlene Barnes, who has lived in Whitefish since 1958.

“I thought, ‘Why sit at home?’ So we came out to take a look,” she said. “This is reality television, don’t miss it!”

In more than 50 years, Barnes has seen Whitefish grow from a small railroad town to the tourist destination it is today. Although the town she lives in bears little resemblance to what it was a half-century ago, she said change is good.

“I say just go with it,” she said. “I think this is great and we weren’t meant to stay in the 50s.”

Some downtown business owners echoed that sentiment during the concert, including Tom Donahue of Coopers Eatery. During the concert, Donahue stood outside his restaurant and talked about how events like the television shoot are helping put Whitefish on the map.

Donahue and other business owners were notified a few weeks ago that Central Avenue would be closed between Second and Third streets. He said the closure had little impact on his business and in the long run would help the town.

“I think this is great for the town of Whitefish, which is trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up,” Donahue said. “This helps.”

As Darling sang onstage, “The Bachelor” Sean Lowe and one of the contestants on the show danced on another stage in the middle of the crowd. Cellphones and cameras were raised as the couple kissed to wild cheers from the crowd, which was coordinated earlier by producers. The rehearsed make-out session lasted almost an hour and included several retakes as cameramen worked the scene from street level and an elevated platform.

Bob Parker of Whitefish said he had seen a few episodes of “The Bachelor” before, but usually doesn’t watch a lot of television. He plans on watching next season, though, to keep an eye out for Whitefish.

“I didn’t know what to expect to tell you the truth,” Parker said. “This is fantastic. It’s great for the community and it’s great for the area.”