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A recipe for success: Pioneer Woman in Fargo this weekend

Ree Drummond of Food Network's "The Pioneer Woman" is the keynote speaker at Saturday's Eco Chic Design Conference. Special to The Forum

FARGO—Pawhuska, Okla., is a small town (population approximately 3,600) in the middle of cattle country. The closest major metropolitan area is Tulsa, about an hour south. Yet visitors have been traveling in droves to the small town just for a taste of Ree Drummond. The Food Network star's new restaurant/retail store, The Mercantile, has become a tourism destination, with some reports of as many as 6,000 visiting in a day and up to a five-hour wait for seating.

Local fans won't need to make the nearly 800-mile drive or wait for hours to get a glimpse of the Pioneer Woman. Drummond is the keynote speaker at Saturday's Eco Chic Design Conference in Fargo.

This is the first year the event headliner won't be an HGTV personality, though the network's Chip Wade from "Elbow Room" also has a presenting spot during the day-long event, which also includes Fargo's Grain Designs.

Previous stars have included Chip and Joanna Gaines from "Fixer Upper" and Jonathan and Drew Scott from "Property Brothers."

"It's not just about home design, it's about life design," says Maria Bosak, festival organizer and presenter.

Drummond may be best known through her Food Network show, "Pioneer Woman," but she came to national attention through her blog, thepioneerwoman.com. She started writing in 2006, detailing her daily life on her husband's family ranch in rural Oklahoma. Readers were drawn in by her discussions about raising and home-schooling her four children and her photography.

"Her willingness to share what she has learned, whether it was food, motherhood or photography, when you would read it, it was like a friend talking to you. Just her nature, style and kindness," says Bosak says, who has followed Drummond for over a decade.

The blog was a big hit, even before she started writing about cooking. After the recipes started running, a book deal followed and in 2011 her show, "The Pioneer Woman," debuted on Food Network.

Drummond's appearance will be an on-stage interview with Bosak, who will ask the domestic celebrity about her personal life, the blog, the show, her new children's book and what a day is like on the ranch.

While Drummond is known by her fans as the Pioneer Woman, Bosak says there's a reason she appeals to people across the country, not just in rural areas. She compares the star's appeal to the Gaines from "Fixer Upper," saying both center their on-screen efforts around their families.

"I think nowadays we do yearn more for that simpler life and reconnecting with family," Bosak says.

If you go

What: 2017 Eco Chic Design Conference

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, April 22

Where: Scheels Arena, 5225 31st Ave., S., Fargo

Info: Tickets are $59 and $89. www.ecochicdesignconference.com

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