KAXE celebrates 25 years
MusicFest April 28 at Showboat Landing
H.R. Weixel
Friday, April 20th, 2001 03:26:41 PM

For 25 years, radio air waves in northern Minnesota have been flowing with music, news, public announcements and weather information being broadcast from public radio station KAXE at 91.7 FM with 100,000 watts.

A week-long celebration for the station's 25th anniversary is scheduled to begin Saturday, April 21. The station's founders will arrive Monday, April 23, to participate in the anniversary observance. Also featured during the week, will be many special events, birthday cakes, guest stars, and favorite musical presentations. A grand finale all-day music festival at the Showboat Landing to be broadcast Saturday, April 28, will conclude the gala anniversary observance.

The radio station founders, Rich and Suzi McClear, are returning to Grand Rapids from the former Yugoslavia. The McClears are living in the European country to assist in establishing radio stations and to teach journalism. They will be available at the station to greet people and will speak on the radio programs.

General Manager Maggie Montgomery said, "About 25 or 30 years ago this young couple decided to make a community radio station in this area. They felt Grand Rapids offered a good location, because there was high ground here for a tower and because there was enough population on the Iron Range to support it."

Station volunteer Gil Quall added, "But they had trouble selling their idea. Apparently they were told 'there's nobody up there - you'll be playing to the gophers'."

The public radio station was started in 1976 and is primarily funded by listener membership. Pledge drives are conducted in the spring and fall with a smaller scaled drive in the summer.

KAXE is a non-profit organization with a 10-member board of directors. The board holds the license for the radio station as a community licensee. KAXE is a member of National Public Radio and Public Radio International.

More than 100 volunteers assist in programming and producing the radio shows that are broadcast daily on a 24-hour basis. The volunteers come from many Minnesota communities. Local and out of state musicians are featured live on many of the programs. Talk shows have brought telephone calls from all over America and from as far away as London, England. The shows also can be heard and seen on the station's web site www.kaxe.org.

The KAXE paid staff includes seven full-time and five part-time employees. In addition to Montgomery, the full-time employees are John Bauer, development director; Scott Hall, community access coordinator; Mark Tarner, program director; Brenda Greeley, business manager and membership coordinator; Brian Jambor, engineer; and Sarah Staley, development associate.

Montgomery, said, "Our mission is to build the community, use media to accomplish the community good and when people turn on the radio they hear northern Minnesota".

In preparation for the 25th anniversary celebration, members and listeners have been choosing their favorite songs that have been broadcast over KAXE during the last 25 years. Entries have been submitted via mail, telephone and over the Internet. The top 100 songs will be determined and played on a "countdown" basis all week.

"The top 100 songs are by some of our local musicians, some are from the past, some are quirky - there will be different programs all day, all week," Montgomery said.

The unique anniversary programing includes:

Saturday, April 21 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Brewed Awakenings restaurant, the Live Green Cheese show featuring quiz mistress Julie Crabb from Meadowlands. Trivia questions, answers and other conversation topics will be broadcast live. Listeners can call 326-1234 or 800-662-5799 to get on the program.

Open House with a birthday cake will be served each day from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the station located at 1841 Highway 169, on the Itasca Community College campus.

Saturday, April 28 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. a fantastic music festival will be broadcast live from the Showboat Landing. There is an admission fee to be used to raise funds for an endowment fund that will be matched by the Blandin Foundation.

For more information call 326-1234.