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Encore! Encore!

Sewing and creating was once a business and has always been a passion hobby for Ruth Gmeinder.

Her home, full of vibrant colors, sparkling masks and plenty of smiles is also filled with four years of work and more than 50 hours of intricate detailing in costumes in preparation for the Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Fund primary fundraising event’s encore of, ‘An Afternoon in Venice.’

“I used to have a costume shop 30 years ago where I made and designed all sorts of costumes,” said Gmeinder, owner of Gull Lake Resort, member of the Women’s Fund and co-chair on the Afternoon in Venice Committee. “But these are the most elaborate I’ve ever made.”

Drawing a crowd of more than 300 to last year’s event, Women’s Fund member and co-chair on the Afternoon in Venice committee, Susan Mezzenga, said while the theme of a “Carnavale in Venice” will be the same many things have changed for this year.

“One of the things we did last year was have (attendees) take a survey so we could make the event even better this year,” said Mezzenga, donning a gold mask and red attire. “So we have made changes to reflect some of those suggestions like using the space better, having more seating available for people to relax and enjoy the ambiance created and make sure we have more fluid movement throughout the hall.”

Beginning at 2 p.m. Oct. 13 at Madden’s Town Hall, the fundraiser will feature a matinee of scenery, music and Italian theme appetizers.

And of course the event will include the costumes, each a bit different from what was seen at last year’s event.

The elaborate 18th Century styled Venetian costumes will be the centerpiece for the extravaganza. On top of the hours Gmeinder spent perfecting a single costume, she added that many have thousands of Swarovski crystals hand-stitched in their detailing, with fabric and blank masks for the outfits from all over the world.

“What’s great about what Ruthie (Gmeinder) has done is that all of this time she spent was on her own volunteer hours to help raise money for our community,” said Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Fund Chair Tami Lueck, wearing a short black laced skirt and colorful dreadlocked wig. “All of these people who will be our entertainment, they are people volunteering their time. No one’s getting reimbursed, so I think it’s just phenomenal how helpful and dedicated they are to raising money for the endowment and scholarships in the local community.

“And those who purchase tickets will be contributing to that, too, with a fabulous afternoon.”

Lueck added that “An Afternoon in Venice” is one of the Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Fund — established in 2009 with the mission to help local programs that support women and children — biggest and most important fundraisers.

Tickets cost $35 for general admission; VIP tickets with preferred seating are $75 or $150 which includes one of Gmeinder’s costumes to wear during the event.

For information, to register or to make a donation to Brainerd Lakes Area Women’s Fund visit

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce).