BY CHRIS AADLAND, Reporter
MISSION – KCUW, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation’s community radio station, will hit its 20th anniversary in February – and it is planning to celebrate that milestone a number of ways throughout the year.
In those 20 years, the station has gone through three different channels, currently using 104.1, and gone from a makeshift studio in a maintenance building behind Wildhorse Resort & Casino, with a “very, very low, low, low” power antenna on top, to its current studio and office space in the Public Safety building, as well as a couple of other antennas, said KCUW Operations Manager Anson Crane.
More changes are coming, like another potential antenna to boost the station’s signal strength.
But first, he said he wants the community to know more about the station’s anniversary and the role it has played in the community in its 20 years.
“I want to showcase what’s the soul behind this radio station, because it has a lot of it,” he said. “A lot of soul and good people.”
The first celebration will be an open house Feb. 2 – the anniversary of the day the station first went on the air in 2004. Crane said the event will include longtime contributors, staff and volunteers who have been vital to the station’s success stopping by to spend some time on the air sharing stories about KCUW and answering questions.
The open house won’t be the only event Crane – who before taking his current position in late 2022 was one of those many volunteers KCUW has counted on and previously serves as assistant director in 2015 – has planned to mark the anniversary.
He said he plans to host a lunch to show appreciation for the station’s volunteers, who Crane credited as the biggest factor in the station’s survival and growth, as well as producing a short documentary about KCUW’s history over the summer.
Throwback merchandise will also be produced to honor the anniversary, and Crane said he’ll be sure to highlight the station’s anniversary and history throughout the year at community events it participates in, like the Community Picnic and fireworks show.
The point of all that, he said, is to recognize all those who have contributed to the station over the years and the important role community radio stations have, in addition to growing its reputation and heightening public awareness for what Crane said is an exciting future.
The result, he said, is hopefully that the community understands that he and the stations contributors do the work “for here, for the CTUIR, for the people.”
The community radio station’s 20th anniversary comes as Crane is planning for other changes to the station that should begin to be noticed throughout the year.
For example, a second antenna could soon go up on the other end of Pendleton to strengthen KCUW’s signal and increase its reach. Crane said the station applied for the second “LP” antenna recently and should hear in the coming months whether it was approved, which Crane said he expects. That would also give it another frequency – 105.9 – for listeners to turn to.
The state also plans to resume online streaming of its content as well as updating its outdated music playlist, which Crane said is a tedious task. He also said he will shift his focus – now that he’s settled into his role and familiarized himself with administrative duties, like budget matters and federal regulations – to improving and adding content.
Hopefully, Crane said increased awareness or interest from anniversary events, to planned changes, continues to draw more interest in the station, from underwriters or other community organizations who see KCUW as a valuable partner in getting information out to the community. “This year is all about improving the foundation,” he said. “A big part of this year is pulling other people in.”