Online Dating Gone IRL Hits Missouri with 50 Dates in 50 States

click to enlarge Matt Wurnig, a.k.a. the “TikTok Bachelor,” recently brought his 50 Dates in 50 States project to Missouri. - LOBELINE COMMUNICATIONS
Matt Wurnig, a.k.a. the “TikTok Bachelor,” recently brought his 50 Dates in 50 States project to Missouri.

When the text came in, Sara Richter was chilling, watching American Idol with her family in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. “Is this real?” she recalls thinking. But then, Richter, 21, and a student at Mizzou, realized she had the same message on her SnapChat.

“I'm not even kidding you, I screamed and scared mom half to death,” Richter says. “OK, it's not fake. Like I can respond now. But I was just so excited.”

Like many a youthful missive, those texts were about a date and an eligible bachelor — specifically, Matt Wurnig, the “TikTok Bachelor.” He’s the star of 50 Dates in 50 States, a TikTok channel, podcast and social media phenomenon detailing Wurnig’s experiences dating women in every U.S. state. He’s currently on his second season, after a first that began with virtual dates and ended with them in real life.

Though the concept of 50 Dates sounds pickup artist-esque, that’s not the vibe that Wurnig puts out. What comes across on his channel is primarily enthusiasm for novel experiences and fun tinged with youthful silliness. It also seems possible that everyone involved is part of a generation comfortable with doing things for social media visibility.

Something in there explains Richter’s enthusiasm.

“I saw Matt’s first couple of videos,” Richter says. “I thought that was a really cool idea.”

50 Dates is a pandemic project that blew up. Wurnig, who hails from a farm town outside of Billings, Montana, was working for a baseball team in North Dakota when COVID hit. As life turned virtual, he began looking for something to entertain himself and others.

“Everybody was looking for ways to entertain themselves, and they're bored at home, and so I decided to go on a virtual date with a girl in every single state,” Wurnig says, explaining how he began sharing clips from his virtual dates on TikTok. “I started gaining some traction online. That's when I decided to up the ante and go meet them all in person.”

Wurnig designed a logo, had his truck wrapped and started traveling throughout the U.S. for his dates. Traveling extensively for the first time during the pandemic turned out to be a challenge with businesses closing early, as did figuring out how to build his brand and gain media attention.

The latter has gotten easier during season two, as Wurnig now works with Lobeline Communications, an entertainment PR agency located in Los Angeles. That has meant less hustling for attention, not having to position the camera himself and less troubleshooting.

Wurnig recalls about a dozen instances when he’d get to a state only to find his date out of town or otherwise unavailable. Having your date cancel at the last minute can’t be described as a good feeling under any circumstances. But when you’ve driven to a certain state for said meetup in a quest to experience a night out in all the states within a certain time period, the logistical side of things becomes extra important.

“I just drove six hours to this state or town,” Wurnig says. “I’m in this hotel, and I have one day to try and find a date.”

That’s not something Wurnig had to worry about with his Missouri date. Richter conceived of a plan to take him on a campus tour, stopping at Missouri’s largest tree. Then they’d go out on a downtown Columbia bar crawl. She wrote about this plan in an application on Wurnig’s website, and he selected her from the group of Missouri candidates.

Wurnig says that getting to see what the states have has been half the fun, pointing to zip lining in New Hampshire. “I was like, man, what’s going to be in New Hampshire?” he says.

Richter understands that aspect of the brand, saying she wanted to show off the Show-Me State.

“[I’m] showing him my, like, normal life,” Richter says. “But also, because we're bouncing around to the different bars, I'll get to show him all of downtown Columbia and what it has to offer.”

They went on their date at the end of April, and though the YouTube episode won’t be up for a while, viewers can get glimpses of the 50 Dates on other social media channels, including TikTok.

About The Author

Jessica Rogen

Jessica Rogen is managing editor for the Riverfront Times. Send her your food, arts, film, theater, music and other culture happenings.
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