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Area student to sing during Obama visit

McKaia Ryberg, a sixth-grader at St. Mary's Elementary School in Bird Island, will sing the national anthem Saturday before President Obama. Submitted photo

BUFFALO LAKE -- An 11-year-old, sixth-grade student at St. Mary's Elementary School in Bird Island has been invited to sing the national anthem Saturday when President Barack Obama makes a campaign visit to Minneapolis.

McKaia Ryberg was "discovered'' by gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton when she sang the national anthem for the Tim Orth Foundation benefit held last March, according to her mother Sandy Ryberg. Her parents, Brian and Sandy Ryberg, live and farm in the Buffalo Lake area.

Sandy Ryberg said they received a call recently from Dayton's office asking whether their daughter would sing the national anthem for the president's visit.

They also asked if she would be OK with singing before a crowd estimated to number around 20,000.

Her mother said her daughter has performed before crowds of 1,000 and 3,000, and she quickly responded: "What's a few thousand more?''

Ryberg said her daughter was delighted when Tim Orth organizers invited her to sing for last year's benefit, but no one in the family expected it to lead to an opportunity like this.

She said they learned that Mark Dayton had been in the audience during the performance, and had been very impressed by McKaia's performance.

So much so, he had apparently attempted unsuccessfully to meet up with her at the event to tell her how much he appreciated her talents. He later contacted Val Serbus with the Tim Orth Foundation and was able to find out how to contact Ryberg's parents and extend the invitation for the president's visit.

Mother and father are as excited as their daughter about the opportunity, and despite the hectic harvest activities are looking forward to seeing her sing in Minneapolis.

Sandy Ryberg said their daughter's musical talents are hers alone. She's very musical, her mother said, adding: "She just has the gift.''

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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