FAIRMONT - The East Chain gospel group Heart Song has been a staple in Martin County's faith since 1976, while still maintaining its youthful sound.
"It's been a neat opportunity to share together with our family," said Jenny Ochs. "This is something I've done since I was 2. It's neat to share this as a family, sharing our faith and ministering."
Ochs, along with sister Sarah Emmert and cousin Melissa Hardie, grew up singing in the family band, but have all relocated to the Twin Cities. That hasn't stopped Heart Song.
Jenny Ochs, from left, Melissa Hardie and Sarah Emmert perform as Heart Song Friday afternoon at the Martin County Fair. The family gospel group from East Chain has been performing since 1976.
"We do have a few additions," said Judy Peterson, who along with her husband Doug and brother-in-law Rick Peterson started the band. "We have other friends that are musicians in the area that fill in when the kids can't join us."
Jacob Larson and Dustin Johanson help out on instruments, and Judy and Doug's son, Josh Peterson, is on drums.
"It helps us keep our youthful sound," said Judy.
In fact, the next generation of Heart Song is already taking its cue. During the Martin County Fair performance on Friday, the founding members' young grandchildren took the stage.
"They've done this before," Judy said.
When Doug Peterson first formed the band, he had something else in mind.
"It started when Doug was in college, and there were eight guys, and contemporary Christian music was just starting," Judy said. "He liked that he had an opportunity to play something other than the top 40 hits. When he graduated and came back here because he had the opportunity to farm, he tried to find eight guys, but instead he got a wife, and his brother and sister-in-law."
"The gospel became a passion for us," Doug Peterson said. "It's the best vehicle to reach people with the good news."
"We don't make a living doing this," Judy admits. "Everything we get goes back into the ministry. We don't charge for our CDs; we don't think God would want it that way, so we just give them away to get the word out there."
The band has recorded 12 CDs, and travels fairs and festivals in the summer.
"Back in the '80s, we did about a hundred shows a year," Doug said. "We traveled a five- or six-state range.
One of the next performance stops will be at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa.
"With the drought, the farmers down there are really in need," Judy said.
Heart Song will have an encore performance 11 a.m. Sunday at the Martin County Fair as part of the Community Worship Service. They will also perform at the worship services Aug. 26 at the Minnesota State Fair.
More information on Heart Song can be found online at www.heartsongministries.net