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Two-day festival in Bena to benefit homeless program

BENA - It'll be a weekend of music played for charity, hoping to revitalize this small town.

WinnieFest 2012 will be Friday and Saturday at Big Winnie Store, RV Park and Campground in Bena. The first day will feature rock music, while the second day of music will be blues.

Organized by Beth "Dwa" Brown, Arnold Dahl and Matthew Wooley, this will be the second year for WinnieFest.

"We were having dinner and we started throwing the idea around," Dahl, owner of Big Winnie Store, RV Park and Campground, said. "We thought it'd be great to do something in Bena because nothing ever happens here. I was restoring the resort, so we thought why not do something there."

The two-day festival will feature local, regional and national Native American musical acts. Various vendors will also be set up, selling crafts and food. There will also be a Little Miss Winnie contest.

"We wanted to empower the area," Brown said. "We wanted to show them that if they want to do things with their art, they can do it."

When the group started organizing the first event last year, they decided they wanted to do something for charity, Brown said. Last year's WinnieFest benefited juvenile diabetes.

"This year we're raising money for the Leech Lake Homeless Resource Program," Brown said. "Housing is a huge issue on the Leech Lake Reservation. A lot of people don't have the necessities they need, so this gives them the things they need to make it day to day."

Dahl said spreading awareness about the issue is just as important.

"I didn't know there was a homelessness issue on the reservation," Dahl said. "They used to have a facility, but they don't anymore. But they still have certain paths they can take to help people. We're making sure they're going to continue to have funding while bringing awareness to the problem."

Brown said the event wouldn't make it without its sponsors.

"It is quite the labor of love for me," Brown said. "We want to thank all of our sponsors and everyone donating their time for helping us. We couldn't do this without them."

WinnieFest brings pride and recognition to Bena, Dahl said.

"This is one of the best things that has happened in this area," Dahl said. "We're so appreciative people are coming forward to donate their time and help us spread awareness. It's overwhelming that all these people want to be part of this."

Doors open at 5 p.m. both Friday and Saturday, with family free time from 1-4 p.m. Saturday. Cost to attend is $10 per night.