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Published January 30 2012

Brother, sister make Fargo Star finals

FARGO - Sly Stone would be proud of Fargo Star as the third week of voting proved to be a family affair.

Steph Palanuk and her older brother Christopher Ashmore finished in the top two spots of the voting group, earning them each a spot in the Fargo Star finals, held at The Venue at The Hub on Feb. 25.

Ashmore, 31, is a Fargo Star veteran who made last year’s finals by singing from the Journey catalog. But that experience and familiarity didn’t give him the edge over his 25-year-old sister who sang Evanescence’s “Call Me When You’re Sober” to earn 19 percent of the 32,719 votes cast.

“My mom’s going to flip out,” Palanuk said after learning she qualified with her brother.

And, yes, the siblings from Moorhead do come from a musical family. Their mom and dad met while playing in bands around Fargo-Moorhead.

Their father, Pepper Ashmore, was in Soft Thunder and Uglier than Ever during the ’80s. He was joined by his wife, Deb, in the group Park Avenue – which, Deb Ashmore says, gigged at some of the Fargo-Moorhead hotels for years.

Given that lineage, paired with the fact that Pepper and Deb also own Pepper’s Karaoke, it’s easy to understand how the Ashmore children became singers.

“We’ve been singing together since we were two or three years old,” Palanuk says.

They’ll sing together again – in a sense – at the Fargo Star finals. But it almost didn’t happen.

Deb Ashmore says her son wasn’t going to enter Fargo Star this year, thinking he might be too old. But his sister Steph urged Chris to give it a go with her during a recording session at the Divas and Rockstars karaoke bar this past December.

“We thought it would be something fun we could do together,” Chris Ashmore says.

The Ashmores are celebrating the family’s good fortune, but not too much. They’re also hoping the third Ashmore sibling, 23-year-old Mehgan, can join her brother and sister in the Fargo Star finals.

Mehgan is in this week’s voting group, which collects all the Fargo Star contestants from the first three weeks who didn’t qualify for the finals. The top four from this week’s voting, which ends at noon Monday, will fill out the finals roster. Watch the videos, and cast your votes at fargostar.areavoices.com.

Whether Mehgan Ahsmore makes the finals or not one thing is certain, Deb Ashmore is already conflicted about who she’ll be voting for in the Fargo Star finals.

“I may abstain,” she says.

Readers can reach Forum Features Editor Robert Morast at (701) 241-5518