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Photo by Rachelle Klemme Master gardener Rebecca Kolls entertains and informs the Womens' Night Out audience at the Wadena Memorial Auditorium.

Kolls is a huge draw at Women's Night Out

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news Wadena, 56482
Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson, P.O. Box 31 56482

Featuring keynote speaker Rebecca Kolls, this last Monday brought the largest attendance of the annual Womens' Night Out events hosted by Tri-County Hospital.

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About 600 women in attendance had the chance to browse informative booths, receive health screenings, enjoy a free meal from Boondocks Catering, register for door prizes and hear Kolls and Tri-County Hospital's own Dr. Shaneen Schmidt at the Wadena Memorial Auditorium.

Kolls, master gardener and WCCO meteorologist from 1992-1996, spoke at the Memorial Auditorium before a flight to Honolulu to conduct garden tours the next day.

She said that the recession, along with more awareness of organic food and the Obama administration's promotion of healthy eating, had caused an uptick in gardening.

"People are finally realizing the benefits of growing their own food," she told the audience.

She gave tips on a variety of gardening topics including choosing the right tools, pest management, tomato blight, fertilizing and the humorous side of garden care.

She said that the method of drowning slugs in beer was only sometimes reliable, and that the pests were found to prefer the Heineken brand.

Kolls said that her presentation on frugal gardening is a timely theme.

"It is a perfect topic with the recession ... with people suffering from tornado damage, how to lay roots down and get started all over again and save money in the process," Kolls said at a press conference. "It's really living the old life of the way gardening used to always be. A lot of what I share is what I learned from my grandfather."

She said that her grandfather was "organically cool way before it was cool."

Kolls, who lives in Wisconsin, said that she travels around the country speaking on her expertise.

"I live by the mantra 'neglect with respect,'" she said. "We kill our lawns and our gardens with kindness because we overfeed, we overspray, we overwater, we overdo everything. If we just back off, nature usually takes care of herself."

She said that gardening food has many health advantages over exclusively buying it at the grocery store.

"There's this whole locavore movement where we are now finally getting it.We keep eating produce that's been shipped around the country, that's leaving this massive carbon footprint, when in fact we can be growing this in our own backyard," she said. "And it tastes better. Hands down, it tastes better."

She said that people who live in apartments or otherwise don't have a yard can grow plants in pots, and that even porches and balconies provide vertical space.

Kolls also said that people who lost foliage in the June 17 tornado should plant deciduous trees and shrubs as soon as possible and get them rooted.

"My suggestion for the fairgrounds is be sure to incorporate a children's garden," she said. "That would be a great opportunity for the kids to design and come up with real creative ways to build gardens that are fun, that can be playgrounds, and can be educational and can profit from a good harvest."

Kolls said that her job as a meteorologist had fed into her gardening passion.

"I started incorporating the garden into my weather schtick ... back at my first job in Salt Lake City, and when I moved to the Twin Cities, CBS put down $400,000 to develop this massively huge, great garden on top of the rooftop," she said. "That garden got me on Oprah, and I had this six-page spread on Better Homes & Gardens, and that's really where my gardening career took off."

Kolls currently works as a consumer strategist for Iconoculture in Minneapolis.

Events coordinator Holly Weller said that it was the largest Women's Night Out with about 600 registered and 600 in attendance.

She said that Men's Night Out has also drawn large crowds.

Jill Fiemeyer, who works in community relations and marketing for Tri-County Health Care, said the event was an opportunity for women to have something just for them.

"This is an opportunity for women to start talking about their health, and it gives them something to take back to ... any of our facilities to start that conversation with their provider," Fiemeyer said.

"This is the first year that we've offered women the opportunity to have their blood drawn at any of our five facilities before or even after the event," Weller said.

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