MANKATO, Minn. – At age 25, Matthew Wurnig can proudly say he’s traveled to all 50 states by going on dates. And he’s now doing it again and landing in Mankato.
The Montana native can do so through his creation of 50 Dates in 50 States, which came to be during the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020.
Like many others in quarantine, Wurnig hopped on the dating app Tinder. He noticed he could select a location anywhere in the United States for free, so he selected every state and matched with a girl from each one.
“Zoom was on the rise then,” Wurnig said. “I wanted a way to entertain myself and those around me, so I decided to match with a girl from every state and go on a virtual date with them.”
He would then post recorded Zoom clips of his dates on social media.
“I started gaining some traction and popularity,” Wurnig said. “When it came time to wrap up my 50 virtual dates, I had to up the ante. People were asking what was next, so I decided to go visit them all in person. “
In his 2001 Ford F150, Wurnig hit the road for the adventure of a lifetime.
Five and a half months later, he completed 50 in-person dates in every state and accumulated a large following on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok and YouTube for documenting his journey.
He called that journey season one. Now, he’s in the middle of season two, and Mankato is the location for date No. 35.
Kjerstin Haeny – a recent Minnesota State University graduate – was chosen out of thousands of applicants.
“He popped up on my (TikTok) For You page this past winter,” Haeny said. “I actually DM’d him right away and was like, ‘I’ll take you on a date,’ but he told me I had to apply for season two so I waited for the application to open up and when it did, I applied. “
In season two, Wurnig went beyond Tinder to find his potential dates. He created an application and linked it to his website. Girls over the age of 21 could apply by providing their name, social media handles and answering two questions: 1) What date ideas do you have? and 2) Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
“That really helped me gauge people’s personalities and narrow it down to who I think would be a good date,” Wurnig said.
He didn’t want to have 50 dinner dates, so Wurnig made sure the women he chose would be willing to try new things and have some fun for a whole day. Planning the dates also requires teamwork.
“They usually give me the ideas and I put it into an itinerary,” Wurnig said. “For example, they could give me a list of five to seven things to do and I might choose three of those things plus a couple I come up with.”
After looking through 10,000 applications, he landed on Haeny’s for Minnesota. She happens to be a pilot and offered to take Wurnig flying, something he’d never done on a date.
With the possibility of a sunset ride over Minneapolis and being Haeny’s co-pilot, Wurnig was all in.
“I kind of had a feeling I would get it,” Haeny said. “I feel like taking him up flying is a pretty cool idea, so I wasn’t super shocked that I got it but I was excited.”
The two also talked about visiting Minneopa State Park, grabbing dinner at Number 4 restaurant and hitting some bars downtown afterward.