MOUNDRIDGE — Moundridge Arts Council's third annual Labor Day Concert will feature a family bluegrass group that has performed together more than a decade.
Kilometer 81 will perform a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 2 at Moundridge High School Auditorium.
The band is headed by Ken and Amy Regier of Newton. Both were influenced by their fathers' passion for music — learning barbershop quartet, gospel music and folk songs.
"We both went to Bethel (College) and met in choir," Ken Regier said. "We settled in Newton and raised four kids."
Those four children — Austin, Addie, Erin and Eli — also play in Kilometer 81. Erin's husband, Matthew Graber, who teaches vocal music in the Moundridge schools, is a part of the band as well.
The Regier family has sung together for more than a decade, starting out in churches and moving into other venues, gradually adding more instruments as the children grew up.
"We know each other really well and harmonies come naturally," Ken Regier said. "...I'm really proud of how outstanding our vocals are and how well the kids play their instruments."
The push towards bluegrass music came about in 2014 when the Regier family visited Austin in Paraguay, where he was volunteering for a year after high school.
"We went down to see him and we took him a banjo," Regier said. "He watched a lot of YouTube videos and taught himself to play."
The band's name came from Kilometer 81, an east Paraguayan leprosy hospital, located 81 kilometers from the capital, Asunción. The hospital was founded by Ken’s uncle and aunt, John and Clara Schmidt, nearly 70 years ago.
With all the members of the group being able to sing and having a viola, mandolin, bass, guitar and banjo in their hands, they realized they could go in the direction of bluegrass.
"It's so much fun, to pick up a song ... and everybody figures out their part and it just falls together," Ken Regier said.
Amy's background in female barbershop quartet is showcased with the group's harmonies.
"The girls, when they sing together, it's just such a nice, tight blend," Regier said.
Kilometer 81 performs some original songs along with covers.
“We are huge bluegrass fans, but we also enjoy dabbling in gospel, folk and many other genres of acoustic music,” Ken Regier said.
The songs they choose have themes that are both meaningful — such as family — and amusing.
"Eli decided we needed to have a hobo song," Regier said.
Kilometer 81 has performed at the West Zion Mennonite Church concert series, Kansas Men's Mennonite Chorus and other area events. The Moundridge Arts Council concert is an experience they are anticipating for the chance to play an expanded set.
"We're used to playing and being just background (music) or playing as a featured band for around 30 minutes," Regier said. "This will be a longer show."