Expect even more tourists this summer.
The skies were blue, the sun was shining and the mostly female crowd was in good spirits for the filming of a group date for Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s a two-hour hi-def commercial for Hilton Head,” Chris Harrison, The Bachelorette television host, told a crowd of extras before cameras began rolling.
Given the loyal and widespread following of the show, the decision to film an episode on Hilton Head Island for the show’s 13th season will draw even more visitors.
Arriving from what Harrison described as a “booze cruise” earlier in the afternoon, Lindsay and 13 Bachelorette contestants stumbled upon a spelling bee at Shelter Cove Harbour and Marina.
Three schoolgirls — Dani Conn of Bluffton Middle School, Pearl Giltner of M.C. Riley and Josie Schmitt, who is homeschooled — were spelling when the raucous group of men made their way down the aisle.
One of the girls’ mothers is a friend of a Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce employee. The Chamber helped coordinate the event and selected the girls.
After Harrison announced the winner, he invited the men onto the stage. The Bachelorette is looking for someone who she can not only relax with, but who’s also got the smarts, he said.
Lindsay is a graduate of the University of Texas-Austin and Marquette University Law School.
And so, Harrison announced in dramatic fashion, the show held its first-ever Bachelor Nation Spelling Bee.
Harrison invited the men up on stage and sent the schoolgirls to the judges’ table. Over the next half hour, the girls rang bells for each misspelling while Harrison delivered romance-related words. Euphoric, pleasure, passion and monogamous were among the list. So were words such as immature and arrogant, perhaps a clue of the character of the contestant to which the word was assigned.
Champagne, one of the words that tripped up a contestant, awaited the dozen men sent to the “Loser’s Lounge,” an area of folding chairs off to the side of the stage.
Instructed to arrive at 1 p.m., the crowd of roughly 100 people did not wait long before a producer assigned seats around the marina, positioning people to distribute the “solid, bright colors” audience members were instructed to wear.
Before the cameras began to roll, Harrison talked with the crowd and even allowed several excited woman — and one even more excited man — to take photos with him.
A Bluffton resident, Susan Maddaloni, brought her 11-year-old niece, Alexandra, who was visiting on spring break to the set. Alexandra and her family watch the show back home. The fifth-grader said she is a “huge fan,” and her family, who were out golfing at the time of filming, will be jealous she met Harrison.
Harrison told the crowd he arrived Tuesday night and headed straight to Bluffton for the filming of Rachel’s one-on-one date with Dean. The date featured a romantic dinner and concert with country music artist Russell Dickerson.
A crowd member asked Harrison what he thought of Hilton Head.
“I’ve been here 12 hours and love it so far. Russell Dickerson was awesome.” He scans around the makeshift stage crew have set up. “There’s, like, 10 guys here. I love it.”
He slid on a pair of tinted Ray-Bans. A woman started to fan herself.
“This is my first time on Hilton Head,” he continued. “I love it. June or July? Not so good.”
Never before had a season of the Bachelor or Bachelorette filmed on Hilton Head, though it almost happened last fall.
“We tried to get here last season. You had a party without us,” Harrison said, referencing Hurricane Matthew, which derailed Nick Viall’s season from a visit to the Lowcountry.
While mulling over whether or not the crew could weather the storm, Harrison told the crowd he asked the producers, “Guys, have you ever been in a hurricane?”
The producers instead settled on a visit to Nick’s hometown of Milwaukee.
Oh, you were interested in the results?
The winning word: Polyamorous.
The winning contestant? Tune in to the show’s premiere on May 22. The Hilton Head episode is rumored to be the fourth episode of the season.