OA: KAFM celebrates 10 years of community radio

'It was obvious that we met an unfilled need,’ a founder of KAFM says

DJ Jimmy Mayfield, on the air at KAFM radio

During KAFM 88.1 Community Radio’s first broadcast in March 1999, Peter Trosclair called friends in the valley asking, “Can you hear it? Can you hear it?”

“I’m in Clifton, and I can hear it,” said his buddy while driving around town. “I’m in Palisade, and I can hear it.”

The signal was only 16 watts. “We weren’t sure if it would make it across the street let alone across the valley,” said Trosclair, one of the station’s founders.

This month, KAFM celebrates a decade of pro-  viding community radio to whoever can hear it.

A lot more people are listening to KAFM now, not only on the airwaves, but on the Internet at http://www.kafmradio.org.

In recent fund drives, the nonprofit radio station received donations from local folks, people in 23 states and several foreign countries.

The history of KAFM began before it even went on air.

Grand Valley Public Radio Co. was started in 1992 by a small group of people who wanted a community radio station after KPRN fired all its local volunteers and gave the station license to KCFR/Colorado Public Radio.

In 1994, the Federal Communications Commission granted a license to Grand Valley Public Radio Co. for 88.1 at 16 watts and the call letters KAFM.

Through the years, several attempts to get a stronger frequency were made. All attempts were unsuccessful, but a bidding war for a higher frequency netted KAFM $40,000. That money was immediately put toward the station and a temporary site near Mesa Mall.

“I look back on it now and, boy, I think we were right on,” Trosclair said. He was KAFM’s first executive director.

“We had a great group of people who were passionate about community radio and community access to radio,” he said.

One of the first major purchases the station made was a 100-disc CD carousel because the founders weren’t sure they could get enough volunteer programmers to fill the time.

The CD player was never used.

KAFM now has more than 200 volunteers.

One of those first volunteers was Ryan Stringfellow, the station’s current executive director.

Stringfellow said a friend told him a new community radio station needed programmers.

“I didn’t have any radio experience, but I loved music,” Stringfellow said.

According to Stringfellow, only about 200 locally operated community radio stations exist in the country.

Despite the obstacles and rarity of community radio, Trosclair said the founders had a vision.
“The community turned out gigantically. It was obvious that we met an unfilled need,” Trosclair

“KAFM does embody the voice of the community in every which way,” said Jen Taylor, president of KAFM’s board. “I can’t tell you how strongly I believe in what we do down there.”

In 2001, KAFM purchased its current facility at 1310 Ute Ave. The year 2008 saw the station make several improvements to the outside of the building, including new landscaping and an agreement with High Noon Solar for solar panels.

Although the economic road ahead for nonprofits looks rocky, Taylor said the station’s plan is to “stay smart, stay efficient and to utilize the funding from our giving community and honor those people.”

In the coming years, the station will strengthen its Beyond Radio programs with more concerts in the Radio Room, increase the community outreach efforts and improve its Web presence, Stringfellow said.

“Technology has changed. If KAFM is going to survive, it has to be willing to change with the times,” Trosclair said.

He’s confident KAFM can do that.

“A new generation of people have the same passion that the founders have,” he said.


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