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Bemidji Women's Expo: Event to offer variety, new features

Saturday's Bemidji Women's Expo will feature the array of vendors, door prizes, seminars and speakers community members have come to expect from the Pioneer's annual event.

The Expo will also offer some new opportunities for attendees.

The Spa Corner will again provide manicures and other treatments. But for the first time, the JCPenney Hair Salon will offer dry styling.

A major innovation will be the Show of Strength Fashion Show featuring nine models from the Bemidji area in JCPenney fashions they picked out, with the help of Becky Siegel, JCPenney Women's Department manager.

"It's been wonderful working with them," Cindy Dorr, coordinator of the fashion show and Pioneer business office employee, said of the department store, which is in one of its busiest times of year now. "That we had models (available) made it workable for them."

The models have written accounts of their life experiences and difficulties they have overcome. The moderators will read these autobiographies as the models show off their outfits and stage presence.

Pioneer Business Manager Tammie Richter said she and Larisa Syverson, an employee in the business office, attended a similar fashion show in Grand Rapids.

"It was very powerful to watch," Richter said. "We are going to be telling their stories for them."

Dorr said the models were glad to volunteer for the project, although, never having modeled before, they are a little nervous.

"They're real women from our community," said Dorr.

The other main change in the Women's Expo is Chad Crittenden, the keynote speaker. He will be the first man to be invited to keynote at the Women's Expo, and he said he is honored to have the opportunity.

Richter said in planning the Expo, the gender of the keynote speaker has never been an issue.

"Every year when we start looking for a keynote speaker, we look for someone who has a story to tell, who's motivational," Richter said.

Crittenden is a survivor of synovial sarcoma of his foot, a rare cancer. He opted to have his leg amputated below the knee, rather than just a portion of his foot. He said the higher amputation makes it possible to wear the kind of prosthesis that allows him to play soccer, compete in triathlons and pursue other sports he is passionate about. He also was chosen to work one season on the TV reality show "Survivor."

There will also be a full seminar schedule at the Expo on topics such as dealing with pain syndromes, exercise, vacationing at home, photography, generational differences, decorating, jewelry, food, the Web and flowers.

"We do our best to make an event people will want to go to and spend the day with family and friends," said Richter.

She said the goal is also for those who attend to take away new ideas and experiences.

"There's something for everyone," Dorr said.