A Vacation for Your Ears

In case you haven’t heard, there’s something exciting and new in Waconia — and no, it has nothing to do with “The Love Boat” theme although it might create thoughts of vacations and far away places, as its slogan is “A Vacation for Your Ears.”
The new sensation is 88.3 KJGT, a non-profit FM radio station dedicated to the musicians, people, and news of Waconia. It was created by the husband and wife team of Blake Rice and Anne Kidder and officially started broadcasting on March 20, 2012.
“It was inspired by our interest to bring local music and support to local schools and education and other non-profit organizations, and to bring the news to Waconia,” said Rice, who explained that they began pursuing the station several years ago.
Creating a radio station is a complex process. The couple received the necessary permits to operate the station about two years ago. The next hurdles involved the leasing of radio towers, the acquisition of studio space, and several other components.
“You can’t just start a radio station,” agreed Kidder, who noted that she doesn’t think Waconia has ever specifically had its own call sign and station before KJGT.
“Our towers are located in Norwood Young America and our city of license is Waconia,” Rice said. “We serve a number of other cities but Waconia is our home base.”
The KJGT studio is actually located at 7575 Corporate Way in Eden Prairie.
“The way that it works is that the studio is connected to a tower in Norwood Young America via the Internet and phone lines,” Rice explained. “The center of our broadcast is in Norwood Young America but (nowadays) you can broadcast from a computer.”
KJGT broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Kidder is the host, Rice is the program manager, and David Winters is the station manager.
Besides Waconia, the station can be heard in nearby cities like Norwood Young America, Watertown, Belle Plaine, Shakopee and Hutchinson. Depending on the terrain, the station can be heard further out, in places like St. Peter, Annandale, and Prior Lake.
“We get pretty good coverage,” said Rice, noting that he has listened to the station north of Plymouth, west of Hutchinson, and east of Edina.
As noted, one of the main reasons Rice and Kidder created KJGT was to provide radio access for Waconia-area musicians. The couple is no stranger to music — Rice has a background in business and music, Kidder taught band at Clearwater Middle School in Waconia for 12 years, and both are professional musicians in the band Aryastone.
“The best way to get music out to people is through radio,” said Kidder, noting the couple understands the music business and the challenge of getting airtime on the radio.
“We know that bands can’t get on the radio,” Rice said. “We wanted to give local bands and musicians access to the radio and have their music aired.”
“It’s really cool to promote local musicians,” said Kidder, who noted KJGT has aired music by the Waconia High School Marching Band and several other local groups. “We’re always looking for local music submissions.”
Music isn’t the only local focus for KJGT, which incorporates community events and activities — such as the Relay For Life of Waconia — into its programming. Local news, interviews with area people, and community announcements are all staples for KJGT.
“We’re set up for live performances in the near-future,” added Kidder, who noted that live broadcasts from school events and other local activities is something that KJGT hopes to eventually feature as part of its regular programming.
Kidder also is contemplating doing a morning show.
“I think people like to hear talk in the morning,” she said. “We would tie it into the local scene with different, interesting topics. It would be fun.”
In addition to the local music and news, KJGT offers mainstream music, too.
“What makes our programming different is we play local and a variety of pop from the 1970s to current,” Rice said.
“We spent a lot of time really looking at music that’s appealing to your ears,” Kidder explained. “We hand picked each song by asking, ‘Is this really something I want to listen to?’ or ‘Has this song stood the test of time?’ According to the feedback we’ve received, people love the variety. You might hear Bob Dylan and then Adele. You can leave it on in the car with the kids and everyone can connect to it.”
“It’s really common for us to receive emails from people saying something like, ‘You went from the Bee Gees to Lady Gaga. Who does that? Please don’t stop!’” Rice said.
As noted, KJGT’s slogan is “A Vacation For Your Ears.” The slogan is directly related to the variety found in the station’s programming and KJGT’s palm tree laden logo is meant to reinforce the slogan’s vacation theme.
KJGT doesn’t have commercials. Rice said the station is currently funded by private contributions and through underwriting. Advertising is available on the station’s website (kjgtfm.org) and on-air sponsorships similar to those heard on NPR are available.
In the months since the station began broadcasting, both Rice and Kidder said it has been challenging but they are excited to see their vision come to fruition.
“It definitely has been harder than we thought it would be, especially the technical and administration parts of it, but we do this because we love to do it,” said Rice, who added that he or Kidder are not compensated for their work at the station.
“We have a lot of connections to the community, the people of Waconia,” said Kidder, noting that both of them spent years of residing and/or working in Waconia. “A radio station creates a sense of pride in a community. We’re glad to be a part of that.”
• KJGT is happy to consider submissions from its listeners. Local musicians may submit a music track via email to [email protected] Local news, business or other items may be emailed to [email protected] For more information, visit kjgtfm.org.