Courtesy of Patrick Harbison

Patrick Harbison won the inaugural contest and is now an event organizer.

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Sacramento singles get clicks for a cause

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 2, 2014 - 12:00 am

It’s crunch time for the 39 men and women nominated in Sacramento’s Most Eligible Bachelor and Bachelorette contest.

Online voting for the honor – which offers more in bragging rights than anything else – ends today. The SMEBB, as it’s referred to by those too tired to say the whole name, started as a smallish Valentine’s Day contest by the blog Girls on the Grid five years ago, said Patrick Harbison, the winner of the inaugural SMEBB.

With the crown still adorning his long, curly locks, Harbison, a do-it-all man about town, and his blog began partnering with the girls. They added the bachelorette contest in the second year.

Each year, organizers have used the contest to raise money for the local nonprofit, Women Escaping a Violent Environment, or WEAVE. This year, they hope to give the charity $15,000 to $20,000. Voting is free. Proceeds are raised through drink specials and by fielding a team for WEAVE’s Walk a Mile in Her Shoes fundraiser.

Participants are nominated anonymously by friends, family or co-workers and then vetted by organizers. Participants are then encouraged to campaign – mostly through social media – for votes.

The contestants recently worked the room at a mixer held in their honor at the Mix Downtown nightclub in Sacramento.

“It’s a little like running for prom queen,” said contestant Kelly O’Shea, 33, a local optometrist.

As an employee of a lobbying firm, John Wenger, 27, said he knows he’ll have to campaign if he wants to win.

“I’ve got some stiff competition,” Wenger said. “You have to get out there (and reach) more than just your circle of friends.”

He’s using the competition to shake off his dating and Twitter shyness.

“I’ve learned you have to be really good at social media to get a lot of votes. I wasn’t super active on Twitter before this,” Wenger said.

While pandering for votes is part of the game, the real win goes to those who find love through the competition.

O’Shea, 33, said her career hasn’t helped her find a fruitful relationship.

“My patients come in and they are like ‘You’re 33, you better get on it,’ ” she said. Working at a hospital isn’t filled with steamy workplace relationships like television shows would suggest, and she doesn’t like the idea of online dating.

“I thought it would be a great experience to meet new people in Sacramento,” O’Shea said of the contest. She moved here after stops in seven states in recent years.

Contestant and Capitol staffer Fielding Greaves, 30, said he signed up because he hasn’t found much time for dating between working full time and attending law school at night. He’d like to meet people offline but doesn’t have much time for it.

“I don’t participate in online dating. It seems like a cop-out. You should be able to meet people,” Greaves said.

Harbison said SMEBB events can lead to more than just temporary magic.

Three couples have married after meeting at events, and two more are engaged, he said.

Call The Bee’s Ed Fletcher, (916) 321-1269. Follow him on Twitter @NewsFletch.

Read more articles by Ed Fletcher

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