Mac on the mic: DJ on KEKB 99.9 FM loves working for her listeners
Mackenzie Dodge is just a waif of a thing, but her personality is as big as a country music star’s tour bus.
You’ll never have to guess what’s on the mind of the effusive 37-year-old. It’s easier for her just to tell you. Dodge admits she talks quickly, yet there’s substance to her words. That substance is her excitement spilling out.
For more than 10 years, Dodge has been delivering country music on KEKB 99.9 FM with her morning show weekdays from 6 to 10 a.m. But it’s so much more than a job. It’s how Dodge interacts with her listeners and finds ways to do good in the community that fuels her passion about what could be the burnout life of a disc jockey.
Keeping her compass tuned to her listeners’ well-being keeps her going, but she only gets eye rolls and chuckles from higher-ups when she tries to describe her motivation.
“My listeners are my family,” she said. “I don’t just say that.”
For example, Dodge and another DJ used to host a drive around at Christmastime to ensure children had toys for the holiday. What they found when they delivered the presents was that most families seemed to have more than enough gifts under the tree, along with many of the comforts of home.
So they changed the format. Through the Grant-a-Wish program, KEKB collects money from listeners, raising $12,000 since the program started in 2008. Folks nominate needy children to participate in any number of programs through the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department. Programs include karate, photography, dancing, soccer, tennis, basketball and a host of other sports and activities. If a child is interested in something the parks department doesn’t offer, the Grant-a-Wish program will find out who offers it and get students a gift certificate to go and do it, Dodge said.
“I get excited over little things,” she said. “If I was to die today I would know I have left some good in my wake. I don’t mind dying if I’ve left some good.”
Dodge’s biological father was in the military and the family lived around the country like, Iowa, Craig, and then the Front Range. Her birth father left when she was 4, and she went to live with her grandparents when she was 6. By the age of 13, her grandfather died and she was legally adopted by her grandmother. Alhough her birth mother was always in the picture, the family moved to Grand Junction.
“I don’t even think I’m from Denver,” she said. “I’m a small-town girl.”
Dodge seemingly has always been able to detect inequities. As a young child, Dodge’s mother told her the story of how she approached and offered a hug to an elderly woman who was eating alone at a restaurant. Dodge thought she had done something wrong when the woman started to cry, but her mother assured the young girl she hadn’t.
“My mom said the lady told her she was lonely and that I had done something special,” Dodge recalled.
Dodge wasn’t always a country music fan, but that changed when she met her future husband, Alex, who wore the clothes and listened to the music.
“I wanted to be a part of his world,” she said.
The first country music song Dodge liked was “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” by Brooks & Dunn. These days she gets into the lyrics of country music, and can especially connect with Taylor Swift. She relates to songs about being picked on as a kid. Dodge said she was teased mercilessly as a child growing up in Grand Junction.
“I just want to go back to all of those girls and say, ‘How do you like me now?’” she said.
Being a modern-day DJ is more than spinning tunes. Dodge manages a staff of two. She is tasked with programming all the music, writing a daily blog, producing news content and posting the news to the station’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. She writes about topics that interest her, a favorite of which is geocaching. On a recent trip to Nashville she ran into a number of county music stars and included photos of herself posing with them on her blog. Breaking news is her favorite, and she posts that online as fast as possible.
“I’m like a pit bull on a pork chop,” she said. “If I’m going to talk about it on the air, it’s good enough for the website so I can refer listeners back to it.”
Despite working long days and weekend and after-work events, Dodge sees her job less as work and more as being a conduit to the community.
A few years ago she noticed a weathered flag on Orchard Mesa and put a call out on the radio that it should be replaced. In no time, listeners were calling in wanting to donate money for a new one. Dodge didn’t even know who owned the garrison flag, a large flag that measures 20 feet by 38 feet. She soon got a phone call from the owner’s son who said his father didn’t have enough money to replace it. The flags cost about $500 each. Within a couple hours, listeners and a local company had donated enough money for not one, but two flags.
That day was an affirmation for her, and she knew it would have made her dad proud.
“He was very patriotic,” she said. “He was looking down on me from heaven. But, I didn’t have anything to do with it. Look at what my listeners did.”