In less than two weeks, the sleepy town of Waverly, Kan., and the people who make it their home will be introduced to the nation.
In a social experiment reminiscent of the first season of MTV’s “The Real World,” circa 1992, the Bravo Network docu-series,“Welcome to Waverly,” plucks seven strangers from their everyday lives in much larger metro areas and drops them in Waverly, where they will live and work for the next six weeks.
Located about 30 minutes south of Ottawa off I-35, the rural community has a population of 560-plus residents and features a handful of businesses, including a restaurant that closes early in the afternoon and a bank. There’s no grocery store, and the bar that burnt down years before has never been rebuilt.
Much like other small Kansas farming communities, Waverly’s past is still present in the empty buildings that stand as reminders of what the town used to be.
But make no mistake. For local residents, this is home.
Beginning Oct. 22, the Bravo network will introduce the community in a four-part event series premiering every night at 9 through Oct. 25. The show pairs a diverse group of seven people with local residents, who work in similar fields, including a hair stylist, pastry chef, bartender and politician.
The idea behind the experiment, the network says, is to hopefully bridge the growing gap in America.
“More and more of the country is portrayed as a nation divided: big cities vs. small towns, diverse demographics vs. rural and white,” said Bravo Media officials. “‘Welcome to Waverly’” sets out to break down these divisions, and see what happens when people from different races, religions, sexual and gender orientations live and work together in a small town.”
Of course, there’s the stereotypical themes of rural America in the first episode, but particularly, those often associated with Kansas: tornado shelters, cattle and conservative Republicans - all reinforced in the opening images. But hold on and keep an open mind. There’s also locals like Waverly Mayor Craig Meader and Carol’s Beauty Salon owner Kari Johnson-Brown, who help introduce and guide the newcomers through the nuances of small-town living.
One of those transplants is 36-year-old Melissa Meier, a bartender from Brooklyn, N.Y., who isn’t quite sure where Kansas is even located.
Born in South Jersey and raised by a single mother, Meier grew up with three gay brothers and considers gay rights a personal and civil rights issue. She prefers dive bars to upscale bars because she likes to be able to talk and interact with her the patrons on a personal level. Although part of her family is from Wisconsin, she’s never spent any real time in the Midwest.
Meier says she’s interested in seeing conservative America, but wants to try to humanize locals first before making any snap decisions. During her stay, Meier, a sworn vegetarian, works at Guy & Mae’s barbecue in Williamsburg, where she serves 3.2 beer instead of Moscow Mules and helps prepare barbecue.
Another is Zachary Morad, a hair stylist from LA, who’s had a knack for beauty. After moving to New York at 18, he’s since styled hair for the MTV Video Music Awards, Oscars, Emmys, New York Fashion Week and on TV shows such as Project Runway. Hoping to learn more about the small towns he doesn’t know anything about, Morad works at Carol’s Beauty Salon alongside fellow transplant and nail artist Trenice Crawford, of Savannah, Ga.
For a sneak peek of the series, visit: http://www.bravotv.com/welcome-to-waverly/season-1/videos/your-first-look-at-welcome-to-waverly.