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Heidi Shaffer, Published May 31 2011

Ogg Creek Stringband stakes out downtown corner for summer

FARGO – Fans pull up their lawn chairs or grab a seat on nearby benches to hear the old-time sounds of Appalachia.

It’s just another Wednesday night in downtown Fargo.

The five-member Ogg Creek Stringband’s old-time music – a precursor to bluegrass – has garnered quite a following since taking to the streets of downtown Fargo two summers ago.

Lisa Vedaa, her husband and two sons bring their lawn chairs out several times a season to hear the band.

“It’s fun to get the kids out and experience music they probably wouldn’t normally hear,” Vedaa said.

The band started playing on the corner of Third Avenue North and Broadway in 2009 as a way to do something different, playing songs that are 300 years old and new to many in the region, said guitarist John Peterson.

Part of playing on Broadway meant the band had to obtain a city sidewalk performer permit, which was established in 2008 after a street juggler was told by police that he could be violating a panhandling ordinance by setting a hat out for tips.

Bob Stein, Fargo senior planner, said the city issued a permit this year to the Ogg Creek Stringband and two other musical performers.

Stein said Ogg Creek’s practice of playing at the same time each week has helped garner the band the most attention.

“A lot of people show up just for them,” Stein said. “That’s the kind of thing it’s going to take to get (the permits) to catch on more.”

The Ogg Creek members met in 2003 during the Celtic Festival at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead. They started playing together but didn’t form a band right away, said fiddle player Michael Miller.

“One day we realized we just kind of clicked together,” he said.

Miller’s 17-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Miller, plays penny flute with the otherwise all-string band, but it’s her clog dancing that attracts many of the kids in the crowd to get up and move to the music.

Tom Holty, a pastor for Hospice of the Red River Valley, makes an effort to stop by most Wednesdays in the summer before heading to a downtown meditation class.

“It’s a good way to get my meditations started,” Holty said.

But the band attracts new fans each time it plays.

Betsy Pladson, a 15-year-old who attends Fargo North High School, and two of her friends were driving down Broadway when they saw the Ogg Creek Stringband for the first time last week.

“We just thought it looked interesting, so we pulled over,” Pladson said.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Heidi Shaffer at (701) 241-5511