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Celebrating art, music and mindfulness

LeeWok Festival returns for fifth year in Minot

The Randall brothers held their first LeeWok festival five years ago for friends and family to remember their older brother, Lee, who took his life nearly nine years ago.

“He was kind of the patriarch of our family,” Ryan Randall explained. “We were always trying to figure out a way to kind of honor him.”

The LeeWok festival was something that was born out of one of Lee’s own ideas. The Randalls live on a 10- acre property along the Mouse River surrounded by oak trees, and Lee created the Ewok Fest, based off the furry critters that inhabit the forest moon of Endor in the Star Wars universe, for friends to gather and celebrate music.

“We’ve always been huge fans of music, so the idea initially was just to bring friends and family out to honor Lee, we’ll raise some funds and go from there,” Ryan said.

Saturday will be the festival’s fifth year out at Three Oaks, 7401 County Road 19 South. With the festival, the Randalls have also created the nonprofit OpenMIND devoted to bringing awareness to mental health and suicide in the community.

“We started looking into it and there aren’t really a lot of organizations in western North Dakota that we could even give the money to,” Ryan said. “There aren’t a lot of resources, there aren’t a lot of organizations that are local that cater towards mindfulness.”

Nationally, there are plenty of organizations for suicide awareness, but Ryan and his brother Brady wanted to give a local option and resource to the community. Now, they work with their nonprofit OpenMIND to end the stigma of mental health and talking about suicide.

“One of the things that was so shocking to us and our family was that our brother Lee was a gregarious, good looking athlete that looked like a guy who had everything figured out,” Ryan said. “Yet, he never even spoke to us that he was struggling with depression or ever had suicidal thoughts.”

Through spreading a message of mindfulness and openness, OpenMIND hopes to give people a voice without feeling judged or like a burden when they do reach out for help. They want to show people it’s okay to talk about the struggles they go through.

“This is a normal feeling that everybody struggles with,” Ryan added. “It’s okay to talk about and it’s okay to get help.”

Now, the organization is shifting their focus to children 13 and under to give them the techniques to slow down, meditate and handle their own frustration. The festival has many opportunities for children doing nature walks, science experience, yoga geared towards children and different crafting activities. Children 12 and under enter the festival for free.

Returning for the second year is the LeeWok Adventure Race at Black Butte, located at 121st Avenue Southeast in Velva.

“Last year, we started the LeeWok Adventure Race out at our cousin’s family farm called Black Butte Adventures,” Randy explained. They offer 10k and 5k races. “Lee was a skilled runner in his own right and it’s something that Ryan and I have integrated into our lives and we just wanted to bring a physical aspect to the event.”

The race starts at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday and costs $30 to enter. Costumes are encouraged and the volunteers helping with the event will be voting and giving a prize to the best costume. The trail winds through North Dakota’s beautiful terrain and is a moderately difficult trail run meant for runners that have previously run a 5k.

“For us it was critical to seize the opportunity to do a race or a run, something that integrates physical activity into our day at the LeeWok event, so we’re pretty excited about that,” Randy added.

The adventure race has about 80 people signed up so far and it’s something the Randalls are excited to see grow.

At the LeeWok festival, a homemade barbecue meal is provided with the price of the ticket. Live music and will be played throughout the event from D Mills & The Thrills, Brothers Burn Mountain and the 3rd Street Blues Band. A silent auction of donated local artwork will also take place.

The price of admission to the festival is $35. The funds raised from the event will go to the OpenMIND organization where the funds will be invested back into the community. For more information about the event or to buy tickets, visit lee-wok.com or their Facebook page @OpenMINDND.

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