The Berge Family has a busy August planned, with an added twist.
Before the Bemidji family performs Aug. 24 at the Lakes Area Bluegrass Festival in Pine River, they will host their third annual Lake Itasca Family Music Festival on Aug. 1-3 near the north entrance to Itasca State Park.
After the festival ends Aug. 3, band member Melanie Berge will be married that evening.
The family bluegrass band from Bemidji includes Ken and Becky Berge, and two of their four children - Melanie, 30, and Mindy, 28.
Ken plays guitar; Becky plays upright bass and piano; while Melanie plays banjo and violin, and Mindy plays piano, mandolin and guitar.
The Berges play bluegrass and old-time gospel music, including original songs, instrumentals and vocal four-part harmony.
They were nominated three times for Midwest Bluegrass Gospel Band of the Year by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America. They have four recordings: "Trusting You," "He Will Provide," "Jesus Be My Shepherd" and "Set Free."
Ken said the family, which also includes son Matthew and daughter Missy, gradually got into playing bluegrass music together.
"There was always music in our house," he said, noting he played guitar and Becky played piano when they were growing up.
"When we married, we played and sang once in a while. When the kids were little, they were forced to listen to that," Ken said with a laugh.
"The kids, of course, took lessons, and it was more of a gradual thing. The girls came home learning songs and we'd play along."
The family was involved in music at their church, and now has played together for the past 15 years.
The Berges played their first big festival in Albert Lea, "and we were scared to death," Ken said.
"The other bands there were sweet. They encouraged us and we made it through OK."
Mindy has enjoyed playing music with her family.
"Right after high school I had the opportunity to go to college or do music as a family. And I think the direction of doing music as a family really built our family relationship. My parents are still my best friends. It really bonded us."
Ken, who owns Ken Berge Construction, said the family's Itasca festival is the only gospel bluegrass music festival in the state. It focuses on families, and offers workshops.
Melanie's fiance is from Ireland, and that happened to be the best weekend for his family to come here for a wedding.
In September, the Berge family will visit Ireland, where a music tour is being arranged for them.
Melanie likely won't make the Pine River bluegrass festival because she will move to Ireland after being married. So the family band will be in transition, and likely will add a player.
"We've enjoyed doing and will continue doing music," Ken said.
Mindy said, "People are what makes it such a rewarding experience."
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