The Bachelor filmed its 23rd season in exotic locales like Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam. But directors of the hit ABC reality series deemed UMW’s Brompton, where part of next week’s show was shot, one of the season’s most beautiful sites.
Captured last October in a cloud of secrecy, the annual “hometowns” episode brought Fredericksburg native Caelynn Miller-Keyes, one of four finalists chosen by this year’s bachelor, Colton Underwood, back to her old stomping grounds. The visit included downtown shopping, ice cream at Carl’s and a stop at UMW’s historic Brompton, home to President Troy Paino and wife Kelly. The two-hour episode airs Monday, Feb. 25, at 8 p.m.
The airtime “was great for Fredericksburg and for the University of Mary Washington,” said Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw, who was approached in the fall by producers. Miller-Keyes – 2018 Miss North Carolina USA, who landed the first runner-up spot in last year’s Miss USA contest – is the niece of Greenlaw’s sister-in-law. “We’ve all been under this gag order. It was so much fun!”
A crew of about 40 converged on the city for some 10 hours of filming in late October, and despite showy touches like the horse-drawn carriage that carried the couple to Carl’s and to Brompton, the activity was kept under wraps. All involved – City Police, Public Works, Fredericksburg Tourism, Parks and Rec, UMW – were sworn to secrecy, and the crew was “stealth-bomber quiet,” said UMW Special Assistant to the President for University Events Susan Worrell, who suggested Brompton as a potential backdrop.
“I couldn’t see them. Trust me, I tried,” said Kelly Paino, who watched from a window of Brompton while Miller-Keyes and Underwood arrived with their entourage. After a practice run to ensure the horses could scale Trench Hill, the crew filmed its way across the lawn of the famous Civil War site, home to the sprawling Brompton Oak, witness to the bloody Battle of Fredericksburg.
City officials spent weeks scouting scenic locations like Old Mill Park and sending photos back to The Bachelor’s California studio. UMW’s newly revamped Heslep Amphitheatre was suggested, Greenlaw said, “because it’s so pretty and it’s just been redone.” That’s when Worrell stepped in. She led a producer, director and writer across campus pointing out eye-pleasing spots like the Jepson Alumni Executive Center, before tossing Brompton into the mix.
For her contribution, Worrell received a grateful text from a show affiliate the day of filming: “The director just said this is one of the prettiest locations they have shot all season.”
Miller-Keyes, aStafford High School graduate who works in broadcast journalism in Charlotte, North Carolina, is smart and sincere, Greenlaw said. The 23-year-old has made ripples since The Bachelorbegan airing in January, colliding with a fellow beauty pageant contestant and being accused of being disingenuous.
“The only person who knows if I’m ready for marriage is me, and I am,” she told Underwood, a former football linebacker, last night during their date in Colorado, the state he calls home. “I am here for an engagement. I am here for you.”
While filming in Singapore, the two had one of the “most emotional conversations we’ve ever had on the show,” according to The Bachelor host Chris Harrison. Miller-Keyes shared with Underwood her experience as a victim of sexual assault as an undergrad at VCU. The incident fuels her beauty pageant platform to improve Title IX policies on college campuses. “If you’re passionate about something, you really can make a difference,” she said during the 2018 Miss USA contest.
When the Singapore episode aired, producers reached out to her family, Greenlaw said, and Miller-Keyes’ mother, Jai-Leah Miller Kamenicky of Stafford, said their experience with the show has been “very positive.”
With the crew bustling about at Brompton, Kelly Paino turned to her mother’s oatmeal cookie recipe as a way to get a closer look at the action. The homemade treats were a hit, and the group asked for seconds, while Miller-Keyes and Underwood sat for interviews under the trees.
“We are proud of our university’s campus. It’s a beautiful treasure of tradition and history,” said Troy Paino, who didn’t get a glimpse of the couple while they were at his home. “We were happy that Colton and Cayelynn were able to experience it too.”
As for those irresistible cookies, there’s no cloud of secrecy there. Kelly Paino agreed to share the recipe.
Kelly Paino’s Secret Weapon Oatmeal Cookies
½ cup shortening
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 egg beaten
¾ cup flour
1½ cups oatmeal
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
Cream first three ingredients then add the rest. Bake at 425 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Cookies may be thin but we like them that way.