Yemassee's women hit the road for 'social experiment'

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Yemassee's women hit the road for 'social experiment'

Reality show chronicles how men survive 'The Week the Women Went'
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  • Published Monday, August 1, 2011   |  696 Words  |  

    In 25 years of marriage, Ray Gathers and his wife, Arnita, have only spent one night apart.

    It was nearly two years ago and Arnita Gathers had to leave town briefly to care for her sick brother.

    She was gone a day and a half, she said.

    On Sunday, along with more than 100 other Yemassee women, the 53-year-old mother and grandmother left her husband and their business -- Ray's Rib King -- behind for an entire week as part of the reality television show, "The Week the Women Went."

    The show will capture what happens in Yemassee when all the women disappear and chronicle how the men they leave behind take care of business, all while completing a community project -- the renovation of the town's train depot -- along the way.

    At about 8 p.m., the participating women said goodbye to their families and walked to the depot to catch a train to an undisclosed location as camera crews took over the town for the seven-day experiment that will air on the Lifetime network.

    Yemassee women said the town is ready for the spotlight -- and they're ready for the rest and relaxation.

    Paula Flowers, owner of downtown antique shop Fletcher's Finds, as well as Fletcher's Finest Deli, helped Yemassee get the producers' attention. Flowers said she isn't convinced her husband and 20-year-old son won't fall to pieces without her, but she's looking forward to vacation nonetheless.

    "There are lots of friends, local businesswomen and mothers participating," she said. "We have no idea where we're going, but we know it will be nice. We're just ready to get the heck out of here."

    Locations for the show, produced by Los Angeles-based BBC Worldwide Productions, were narrowed down to three in late April. The show premiered on BBC3 in the United Kingdom in 2005, but this is the first time the format has come to the United States.

    Producers say they were looking for a town with a cast of colorful characters and a sense of community.

    In addition to capturing local characters in a town where everyone knows everyone, filming the show in Yemassee would be an economic driver and put the town on the map, Flowers said

    Those left behind will be responsible for pitching in on renovations to the town's train depot, a project the Yemassee Revitalization Corp. has been working to raise money to complete, said Flowers, the organization's president.

    In other parts of town, women are putting their businesses -- and homes -- in the hands of their husbands and children.

    Departing mother Josie Anderson, who works 15- to
    20-hour days in her flower shop and cafe, said her 14-year-old daughter, Schyler, is acting as manager for the week. Anderson said she stayed up the past few nights making sure her "honey do" list and emergency contacts are complete for her husband, Bobby.

    "Schyler is getting a kick out of being manager for a week and I'm looking forward to rest and activities I haven't been able to do since opening both businesses," she said. " I'm just praying my house doesn't look like Hurricane Katrina hit."

    Back at Ray's, Arnita Gathers said she isn't choosy about where the women are headed -- as long as they get to relax. She said she knows her husband will stay out of trouble.

    "I believe he can handle it. He's a good man." she said. "He'll do it well, but I hope not too well, or he might not want me to come back."

    Ray Gathers said he isn't worried about taking care of the business, but thinks other younger dads with small children might have "problems." He said he is looking forward to eating "whatever he wanted" while his diet-conscience wife is away.

    "I think it's a great project, and if there's an opportunity to get the wife away for a week, well, I'm happy," he said chuckling. "But, of course, I'll miss her."