It’s not every day that music fans in Central Minnesota have the opportunity to see a country superstar perform right in their own backyard.
But Rock the Prairie — a fundraiser for the Mother of Mercy Senior Living Care Campus — was that rare opportunity. The concert, held Sept. 10 in a field just off Stearns County Road 54 in Albany, featured award-winning, multi-platinum recording artist Jo Dee Messina.
The concert also featured country acts The Devon Worley Band, The Hell Country Truckers and Edge of the Ledge.
More than 1,500 fans set up lawn chairs and blankets to save spots in front of the stage, but by the time Messina started her set almost everyone was on their feet.
She performed a selection of songs from among her nine No. 1 and 16 Top 40 singles from the 1990s and 2000s, and the crowd sang along to every word.
Messina is a woman of strong Christian faith and enjoys sharing that faith with others, even including it in a few songs during her performance.
“Jo Dee also has a great message,” said Jason Bergmann, concert organizer and Mother of Mercy executive director. “She is open to sharing her spiritual journey with the audience, which corresponds with Mother of Mercy’s values of spiritual care for our residents and tenants.”
Messina attends Grace Chapel in Leipers Fork, Tennessee, about 40 minutes from Nashville.
When she entered the music business she let her faith slip, she said.
“We start to let our mind run the show instead of our heart,” she said. “That’s when we turn away.
“Then when the Lord felt it was time for me to come back he started stripping everything back. Every fake charity, the friends, the music business,” she said.
She experienced some rough times, she said, but is back on track, her faith stronger than ever.
“I think [my faith] will have more and more impact on what I do.
“We’re restructuring, and we’re restructuring differently,” she said. “It’s going to be phenomenal, but really my work on the planet here is to bring him the glory [Jesus] deserves.”
Messina also has gone back to school, working toward a degree in biblical theology and ministry at The King’s University in Southlake, Texas.
“The more I study it the more I see that God is bigger than I even imagined and can imagine,” she said.
“I’m not taking these courses for the degree,” she said. “I’m taking them for the knowledge. I want to know the Bible. To know God. It’s not about the degree.”
Throughout her career, Messina has also done charity work for the Special Olympics and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as well as fundraisers for several other senior living facilities.
So she said she was thrilled to be invited to perform for the Rock the Prairie event to raise money for Mother of Mercy, even visiting the campus in the afternoon before the concert.
“I had the greatest time,” she said. “I met some of the staff who were very kind, I was very impressed.”
Messina recently helped her mom transition to an assisted living facility outside Nashville, so she appreciates the little details at the Albany facility like the stunning view from the dining room and the comfortable temperature in the rooms, she said.
“Jo Dee was very personable and easy to be with,” Bergmann said. “She was not pretentious nor demanding. She spent a lot of her down time before the concert hanging out with some mothers and children, not what one would expect from a national country music star.”
The Rock the Prairie event proceeds go to the Mother of Mercy Foundation, whose sole purpose is to support the mission of Mother of Mercy Senior Living, according to Bergmann. The foundation works to create opportunities for residents and staff, as well as fund capital projects.
Funded projects for residents include art therapy, Senior Prom and new technology, like iPads which provide entertainment, cognitive exercises and the ability to talk “face to face” with friends and family around the country.
For the staff, the foundation helps with a Christmas party and scholarships for staff to pursue additional training and degrees, Bergmann said.
Although the final fundraising total hasn’t been determined yet, he said he’s confident the event was a financial success.
“Most important, people had a lot of fun,” he said. “With the help of our amazing volunteers we are confident that Rock the Prairie 2017 will be even better.”