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Women’s Expo: Speakers share stories, tips with audience

BEMIDJI – The Pioneer’s Sixth Annual Women’s Expo offers long-time visitors a few new seminars and a keynote speaker that will both inspire and bring laughs.

The expo, which runs from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Sanford Center, should be one of the biggest yet, with more than 100 vendors in attendance.

In addition to the vendors, Women’s Expo coordinator Tammie Richter said this year’s keynote speaker, Brenda Elsagher, is one she has been working to get for a few years.

“We (as a committee) try to keep it to somebody that has a motivational message,” Richter said. “I have seen (Elsagher) speak before and I was very impressed by her. She delivers a very good message.”

Elsagher, 56, is a cancer survivor turned comedian. She calls her keynote speaking “Humor in Crisis,” a fitting title because her comedy often references her diagnosis of colorectal cancer, using it to get laughs while sharing the story of how cancer made her reevaluate her life.

Elsagher is scheduled to speak on the expo’s main stage at 12:15 p.m., following lunch.

“A lot of life issues come up when you have cancer,” Elsagher said.

“I really enjoy the keynote speaking more because you get to bring a message with the comedy. It really is about the audience and what I can bring to it that will be different. I love the combination of being able to tell jokes as well as being able to tell stories.”

Outside of the keynote speaker, there are several new speakers to this year’s expo.

Bemidji State University’s Muriel Gilman will conduct a “Bicycle Basics” seminar at 1:15 p.m. on the Paul Bunyan Broadcasting Stage, teaching women how to choose the right bike for them and the benefits of bikes as both exercise and as a mode of transportation.

Also new to this year’s event is a “Women and issues of serious mental health: Opportunities and innovations” seminar, conducted by BSU psychology professor Russell Lee and Hope House Director Robin Wold.

The seminar will look at serious mental health issues and their impact on women, either who experience a disorder themselves or support a family member that has a disorder.

Other seminars include a “How to shape your heart” discussion with Sanford Medical doctor Kris Anderson at 10 a.m., which will focus alternative ways to keep the heart healthy.

Sue Doeden will teach people some of her cooking tricks with a “Cooking for health and vitality” seminar at 11 a.m. on the Paul Bunyan Broadcasting stage.

At 9 a.m. on the RP Broadcasting stage, Lisa Martin of Sanford Bemidji Peak Performance will talk about ways for moms to stay fit in their childbearing years and beyond.

For those that have considered continuing their education, BSU Director of Career Services Nancy Haugen will discuss different ways to continue an education and how to make career decisions. The “It’s never too late to educate” seminar will be at 10 a.m. on the RP broadcasting stage.

Also on the RP stage will be a skin cancer seminar at 1:15 p.m. and a “When should you visit the gynecologist?” seminar at 2:15 p.m.

Richter said the Women’s Expo has always been well attended, with an average of 1,200 people attending each year. She hopes that number increase to 1,500 this year.