TRACY ? The 8th Annual Prairie Women's Expo attracted hundreds of people to the Veteran's Memorial Center Saturday in Tracy, where they had the opportunity to browse for a large variety of items.
"There is really something for everyone," Tracy Area Chamber Director Kim Roggatz said. "I think it's going fantastic. We've had a wonderful turnout. The doors opened at 9 a.m. ,and we had a lineup on the street already."
The first 200 women in the door received goodie bags in addition to a basil plant donated by Greenwood Nursery. Inside the VMC, 60 vendors were set up. It's the largest Expo in the eight-year history.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Suzanne Lightfoot and her son, Sam, look over items on display at the Cutie Blooms by Amanda booth at the 8th Annual Prairie Women’s Expo Saturday at the Veteran’s Memorial Center in Tracy. Lightfoot’s mother, Jan LaVoy, and young daughter, Ava, accompanied them.
"We started eight years ago with 35 vendors, and eight years later, we have 60, so it's just really growing," Roggatz said. "And we have a waiting list of people that want to get in, but we don't want to get too big. We want to make sure all the vendors have a good space. We don't want to cram everyone in."
Attendees seemed to appreciate the wide variety of products and services that the Expo offered. Tracy friends JoAnn Ruebsam and Marion Swan never miss the opportunity to attend the Expo, they said.
"We always come here every year," Ruebsam said. "We enjoy looking around at everything. The jewelry is always beautiful. We were looking for scarves, too, but there's not too many here this year. It's always a fun day."
Ruebsam and Swan enjoyed surveying the many one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry on display by Jackie DeNeui of Blue Earth.
"I have a lot of older customers who want me to transform their old jewelry into something new," DeNeui said. "I take a lot of clip earrings and make them into dangle earrings."
When the Expo first began, it was scheduled the same time as the Tracy Area Sportsmen's Show, but the women's event has since grown and separated from the Sportsmen's Show. While the Expo is designed to appeal to women, a few men also braved the environment, though Swan said her husband Arden isn't one who would enjoy shopping at the VMC.
"Arden goes and looks over the Sportsman Show, but he definitely isn't coming in here," Swan said. "I take that back, he did come in and eat last year. But if he did try to buy me a gift, mine would be a garbage can or a step ladder, which is OK because he doesn't know which earrings I would want."
While many of the vendors return year after year, some, like Heidi Swanson Photography and Sharon Hohler's Homeless Treasures, are new at this Expo.
"We make a good mother-daughter team," Hohler said. "This will be my third summer that I've been doing the Homeless Treasures. I like to go to rummage sales and auctions. I buy stuff, so I need to sell stuff. It's great fun."
Hohler sells her unique treasures out of a barn and outbuilding on her farm outside of Tracy.
"I buy really cheap and sell reasonably," she said. "I redo the chairs. I paint. I repurpose my junk. People love that. It's amazing. This is the first time I've taken things out and about. It's a good way to advertise so that's why I did the Expo (Saturday)."
Two hours into the Expo, Hohler said she was pleased with the turnover so far.
"I'm impressed," she said. "It's well-organized, and we've had a lot of interest. It's really fun."
Swanson had done photography from her Main Street studio in Marshall for more than two years now.
"I photograph a lot of kids and families," Swanson said. "I'm really starting to get into boudoir photography, too, in just the last year or so. A lot of people like doing them as gifts for their husband on wedding days. No one else in the area seems to specialize in that."
Visitors also had the opportunity to see what Greg Devereaux Photography offered.
"I try to offer a little bit of everything," Devereaux said. "Sports banners are a big thing right now. I also do a good chunk of graduation pictures. But I do more weddings than anything. I've been shooting weddings since 1996."
Currie native Susan Werner brought a new product, Wildtree, to the 2014 Expo.
"It's all pre-blended and very easy to throw a meal together," Werner said. "That's what I loved about it. There are people out there who love the all-natural, healthy aspect, and I totally appreciate that. But originally when I found it, I liked it because of how easy it is."
Werner, who now lives in Wisconsin, has been a representative for Wildtree for about four years.
"I came back home for the weekend," she said. "I have a couple of people down here that have joined my team, but Wildtree is still pretty new. Every party I've done, about three-fourths of the people have never heard of it before. It's a young, growing company."
Werner said the grapeseed oils have been very popular.
"They're wonderful because they have half the saturated fat that olive oil does," Werner said. "It's very heart healthy and is actually endorsed by the American Heart Association as the healthiest oil."
Werner also noted that the grapeseed oil is in a class of its own because it can be heated up to 419 degrees.
"It's got that nice, high smoke point, so you can use it for the grill or for frying, but it's light, too, so you can use it for salads," she said."You can just drizzle it on, use it for pastas or bake with it. I love how versatile and easy it is."
A variety of attractive, handmade items, such as wooden frames, shelves and tables, were on display courtesy of Joe Pallansch.
"I own a construction company, but I do this in the winter," he said. "It's all from old lumber that was headed for the dumpster."
Pallansch said he also takes orders for custom-built tables or other items.
"I go hunting with my uncle, and I got started with this after seeing the inside of his cabin," Pallansch said. "It's made of all old barn wood. It's a nice change from the Sheetrock and vinyl siding I deal with every day."
Later in the day, a fashion show was held.
"We don't do it every year, but we have Christopher and Banks and Summit Place this year," Roggatz said. "So it's local businesses showcasing their spring fashions."