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Bemidji Women's Expo: Unique event grows in popularity

In 2006, when Bemidji Pioneer organizers started planning for the first Women's Expo, they believed the event would be a positive addition to the Bemidji area.

The third annual Women's Expo will open at 8 a.m. Saturday in the Bemidji State University John Glas Fieldhouse, and the community response has confirmed that the event fills a need.

"I already have vendors who have asked to sign up for 2010 who didn't get in this year," said Tammie Richter, Bemidji Pioneer business manager and Women's Expo organizer. "I've gotten all positive feedback from them. There are many that have been there all three years, although we do have some changeups."

She said more than 90 vendors will set up for retail sales or to simply meet people and make them acquainted with their wares and services.

"This is the most vendors we've had - they're from all over," Richter said. "It's a regional thing. The vendors are very diverse."

Bemidji Pioneer Publisher Dennis Doeden said that while the seminars offer subjects such as landscaping, photography, organizing skills, style and vehicle shopping, a major theme is health care.

Some examples, he said, include Dr. Mark Carlson's "Dr. Mom;" Drs. Lyle Erickson and Eric Levesque on "Living 100 Years," Dr. Muriel Gilman on "Walking for Health."

A new title sponsor this year, Norvartis Pharmaceutical, has joined the lineup with seminars by Dr. Kris Anderson on cardiovascular health and Dr. Mark Holm on bone health.

Another seminar that should be popular will be presented by Nancy Sabin, executive director of the Jacob Wetterling Foundation. She will speak on "The Online Gap," advising adults how to monitor children's Internet habits.

The main seminar stages are sponsored by Lakeland Public Television, Minnesota Public Radio, Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and RP Broadcasting.

Other speaker sponsors are North Country Health Services, Honda of Bemidji, MeritCare, Paul Bunyan Telephone, Chiropractic Sport & Spinal, Bemidji State University, Northwest Technical College, Floor to Ceailing Store, Riddle's Jewelry, Photos by Trish, Pinnacle Publishing and Bemidji Design Center.

In the "Pamper Yourself Plaza," Chiropractic Sport & Spinal will offer health assessments and mini-massages, and Professional Salon Academy will provide mini-manicures.

Food vendors MarketPlace, Lueken's, Erbert & Gerbert's and Dunn Bros Coffee will have breakfast, lunch and snacks available until the 3:30 p.m. vendor show closing, and the first 200 visitors will receive a free cup of Dunn Bros coffee. Door prizes will be drawn all day long, beginning at 9 a.m. with registration up to 8:45 a.m. for a diamond necklace from Kelsey's Jewelry. The final drawings for the many vendors' door prizes will follow the 3:15 p.m. presentation by keynote speaker Jackie Pflug, EgyptAir hijacking survivor.

Doeden encouraged Women's Expo visitors to fill out the registration form their tickets ahead of time so they can proceed quickly to the vendor area.

Each attendee will receive an eco-friendly, reusable Bemidji Pioneer bag along with a schedule of events. He said the Women's Expo is set up for visitors to stay all day.

"There are opportunities to sit and eat and visit and take in seminars," he said.

Or, visitors can take a break for errands around Bemidji and return. Shuttle service will be available from the Bangsberg parking lot at Birchmont Drive and 14th Street, but because there is no BSU football game during the Women's Expo this year, parking should also be readily available.

Anyone with questions can find help from the Bemidji Pioneer staff and volunteer guides from the Bemidji Gymnastics Club, all of whom will be wearing distinctive T-shirts.

Richter said about 1,300 people attended the 2008 Women's Expo. Doeden said because the event is in August this year to fit with the BSU hockey schedule. He hopes people who are entertaining out-of-town guests will bring them to the Women's Expo.

Tickets at the door cost $10, but advance tickets at $6 each or $5 for groups of 10 or more are available until 3:30 p.m. today at the Pioneer office, Lueken's, MarketPlace and Ken K. Thompson Jewelry.

Richter said the Bemidji Pioneer staff is pleased to continue bringing the Women's Expo to the community

"It's an event that's needed here," she said.

And, although the work and planning of next year's event will start shortly after the last door prize is drawn, she said she is always happy to see the visitors as they wait for the doors to open.

"It's very satisfying to know all the work is appreciated," she said.