Long-time exhibitor loves Emo Fair

No one can say Inge Szeder of Emo isn’t dedicated to the annual Emo Fair. Besides, the “log” books would disprove any such remark.
That’s because Szeder hasn’t missed entering her crafts each year in the Exhibition Hall since she arrived in Rainy River District with her husband, Frank, 43 years ago.
Back then, she was encouraged to participate in the fair by neighbours and friends who were keen on attracting “new blood” to the annual event. It worked and she became well-known for her quality workmanship and fair fervour.
Today, at 69 years of age, Szeder is thinking of retiring her knitting needles and crochet hooks from competition, but then again. . . .
“Well, I figured next year when I am 70, I would quit entering, but everybody says ‘no,’” Szeder smiled during an interview at the home she shares with her husband north of Emo.
“Everybody said if I don’t enter, the [Exhibition Hall] would be half-empty,” she chuckled.
“I was sitting here thinking how many mistakes I made that first year [I entered in the fair]—this wasn’t right and that wasn’t right,” she recalled.
“From then on, every year I [entered] a little more until last year when I had 125 entries—and out of that got 106 prizes.
“People kept [joking], ‘Your stuff takes up half of the [entries]—everything I look at has your name on it!’” Szeder laughed. “But it’s fun to enter. You don’t get much money for it [first prize is $2], but you have the competition.”
She also noted it was a great way to make friends.
At the time of this interview, Szeder had 80 entries (in as many categories) ready to go. Exhibition Hall entries were accepted today (Aug. 17), and Szeder had planned to have even more crafts prepared by then.
She starts knitting, sewing, embroidering, and building her wares about three or four weeks beforehand. And lo and behold, her living room morphs into “hobby central” during the flurry of activity.
Szeder’s many crafty ideas are inspired by things she sees in books and other craft shows, but aren’t carbon copies. “It gives me my own ideas. I don’t [make] it like I see it, I make it my way,” she stressed.
Two years ago, Szeder entered one of her crafts in a category specific to antiques. It was the “sampler” she had created back in 1946 as part of a school course in her native Austria when she was only 10 years old.
Learning to sew, embroider, knit, crochet, and bake were mandatory to the curriculum and students took on the tasks early on in their young lives.
“In Grade 2 and 3 I learned how to sew and knit, I learned embroidery in Grade 3, and in Grade 4 I learned the sewing machine,” recalled Szeder. “I was very good [at sewing], so the teacher made me in charge of all the sewing machines.
“[When growing up], I wanted so badly to become a handicraft teacher, but there was no money. We were very, very poor,” she added.
Her antique sampler garnered Szeder first prize at the Emo fair that year, and the accomplishment made making the craft she had first made all those years ago worth the anguish she remembered came with the task.
“How many times I cried when the teacher made me open it and open it [to fix it] and then to get first prize so many years later,” she smiled.
“When my daughter was little, I taught her how to sew [clothes] for her big doll. I kept telling her to ‘open it, it’s not good,” ‘open it, it’s not good,’” Szeder said.
I think she opened it four times and then said, ‘I’m not going to do that any more.’ She entered [the clothes] in the fair and got first prize—she was so happy.
“If you learn something, learn it right,” Szeder reasoned.
Meanwhile, Szeder urged more district residents to submit entries to the Exhibition Hall during the Emo Fair as “new blood” is needed to keep the event viable and fresh.
“I wish more people would be interested in it,” she remarked. “From other people’s view, I think they figure the prize money is not worth it.
“For me, it is not about the money. For me, it’s the pride of making [the craft],” she concluded.