Fall music festival

This year Rock the Leaves is turning from a benefit concert into a full-blown music festival.

For the first time ever, Rock the Leaves will take place over three days – Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The first two days will be held at the Scandinavian Heritage Park, while the final day will be a concert by Grammy-winning alternative rock band Switchfoot at the MSU Dome.

This year Rock the Leaves will be benefiting The Welcome Table and the Minot Area Homeless Coalition, both of which help the area homeless population.

“They are both organizations that are taking steps towards putting an end to homelessness,” said founder Dan Hansen. “With a lot of people moving up here for oil and all that stuff, homelessness is really becoming a problem that people either don’t know (about) or they’re just choosing to not pay attention to the fact that there is a problem.”

While many people have heard about the Minot Area Homeless Coalition, not as many might be aware of The Welcome Table. The organization began after the Souris River flood of 2011 and raises money all year long.

“The Welcome Table began as an enterprise after the flood when we realized that we did not have the infrastructure in the community to fully benefit the poor and marginalized to the extent that we needed to, and that the poor and marginalized were growing in Minot,” said Pastor Debra Ball-Kilbourne of Faith United Methodist Church.

The Welcome Table has drawn together and works with numerous agencies and organizations that provide help in various ways, including soup kitchens, food pantries, basic health care, education, social work and shelter.

Ball-Kilbourne said it is their goal to purchase a building to bring many of these agencies under one roof to more efficiently help the needy in Minot and the surrounding area.

“Right now we’re raising money to buy a building so that we can be all together,” Ball-Kilbourne said. “Being together in a single enterprise allows us, when there is a particularly difficult case, to quickly call folks together and say, ‘OK, what can we do together, here?’ … and help get a family or individual back to being a useful part of the economy and get them back on their feet more quickly than we can if we are sending that individual from agency to agency and simply wearing them out.”

Louis McLeod, executive director of the Minot Area Homeless Coalition, said he was grateful just to even be considered as one of the beneficiaries of Rock the Leaves.

“I think what Rock the Leaves does and what Dan does is amazing. Here’s a young man who is giving back to his community the best way he knows how,” McLeod said. “He’s a young entrepreneur, he deeply cares for what happens in the city of Minot, and if we had more young people like him maybe things would be a little bit better in this world, not just Minot.”

McLeod said while people don’t like to talk about it, homelessness continues to be a problem for cities both large and small. He noted the myth about all homeless being hobos who don’t want to work couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the 2011 flood showed, there are many reasons people, both with and without jobs, can become homeless. McLeod said it’s people like Dan Hansen and events like Rock the Leaves that allows the Minot Area Homeless Coalition to help the many people in need.

“Any assistance that we receive from this is going to go towards helping to assist those individuals who have a bona fide need and need that extra little push so that they don’t wind up becoming one of the numbers,” McLeod said.

It has always been the mission of Rock to Leaves to bring generations together to raise awareness and help people through music, and there will be more music than ever this year.

The first two days of Rock the Leaves at Scandinavian Heritage Park will feature the usual eclectic mix of music and one $5 bracelet will give access to both days. Artists playing include Bread of Stone, Last Great Summer, Celestria, Spoken, Matt Baird, Generosity Encouraged and One Ten Ride.

Hansen said expanding Rock the Leaves to three days has been a goal of his since the beginning. Having attended similar festivals in Minnesota and South Dakota, Hansen knew it was something he wanted to do himself. It was a fortuitous call this spring that finally gave him the opportunity he was looking for.

“We got a call from Switchfoot in April saying they wanted to come up here and play in September and I said well, what better time to make that step towards the three-day event than with Switchfoot? They have that credibility that I believe will help us launch ourselves to the next level,” Hansen said. “They’re a Grammy-winning band, they’ve sold over 5 million CDs, they’ve played all across the world, so they’re the real deal. That was the game changer when they called us.”

Switchfoot will not only be the final act for Rock the Leaves on Monday, the band will also debut a documentary film encompassing their career, the making of their new album and a lot of surfing.

“Their name is derived from a move in surfing, switchfoot, so they’re obviously big surfers. They’re based out of California so the documentary is basically showing the inside story of Switchfoot,” Hansen said. “After the documentary they’ll be doing a performance, and I’ve been told it’s going to be a much more intimate performance than usual so I think it’s going to be a unique concert experience.”

While one of the major goals is to raise more money this year than any other, Hansen said that’s only a part of Rock the Leaves. He said they won’t be able to raise all the money The Welcome Table and Minot Area Homeless Coalition need – not even close – but there are other things they can do to make a difference.

“The main thing is raising awareness because that’s priceless. Being able to inspire people and maybe push them a little bit to want to help out their fellow man and be more active in their community and help out more. We’re trying to encourage volunteerism, we’re trying to set the example that we feel people should try to follow,” Hansen said. “We’re not here to preach, we’re here to just do our thing and hopefully people get inspired along the way to want to help.”