May 1, 1988 was a rainy day along the coast of Maine. In Blue Hill Falls outside a converted chicken barn affectionately known as “The Henhouse” (owned by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary fame), children were dancing around a colorful Maypole. A large ceremonial mock power switch was ready to be turned on as many eager volunteers looked on. WERU Community Radio was scheduled to begin broadcasting at 3:00 p.m. and the first “sign on” had been publicized across Midcoast and Downeast Maine. The only problem was that the FCC license required for broadcasting had not yet arrived at the studio. The fledgling radio station’s attorney had just flown into Bangor from Washington, DC with the license in hand and was on her way by car to Blue Hill. Everyone was waiting with baited breath. At twenty minutes before 3:00 she arrived and WERU was legally able to begin broadcasting on time.
Fast-forward to May 1, 2013, when WERU will celebrate a quarter of a century of broadcasting at 89.9 FM from the top of Blue Hill Mountain on the coast of Maine as an independent, full power, non-commercial, community-run radio station. We are asking all of our friends and neighbors to join in the celebration that will go on throughout the year.
Since that first broadcast, the station has moved to its current location on U.S. Route 1 in East Orland, added the 99.9 FM signal in Bangor, and now broadcasts to more than 240,000 people in seven counties in Mid-Coast, Downeast, and Bangor regions of Maine. This past summer, the station replaced its aging transmitter, the original from 1988, with a new state-of-the-art transmitter purchased through the generous support of the community. It’s safe to say that 25 years after signing on, the “little station that could” is still going strong.
Supported by more than 2,000 household members and 400 businesses and powered by 300 active volunteers, WERU broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing unique and diverse music and public affairs programming that you can’t find anywhere else on the dial. Each week, WERU offers a dizzying array of Zydeco, Gospel, Jazz, Soul, Folk, Indie Rock, Blues, Hip Hop, Celtic, and Reggae, just to name a few. WERU also provides the area with independent, community-based, informative news and public affairs programming, with more than 20 locally produced programs and 9 weekly prime-time hours of national news.
The key to this diversity is the same today as it was 25 years ago – WERU provides the opportunity for community volunteers to serve as broadcasters and thus maintain local control of the radio station’s programming. “We like to think of ourselves as ‘the voice of many voices,’ says Matt Murphy, WERU General Manager. WERU programmers, ranging in age from 14 to 81, are boat-builders, teachers, high-school students, acupuncturists, real estate agents, photographers, midwives, attorneys, lobsterwomen, tattoo artists, and farmers. The voices you hear on WERU may be those of your neighbors and friends.
Over the years, WERU has been honored with numerous awards for its success in grassroots media, including Maine Initiatives’ “Social Landscape Artist Watering Can Award,” the “Rising Tide” award from Maine People’s Alliance, and the Maine Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance’s “Great Pioneer Award.” The radio station also has received several awards from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for excellence in programming. In her presentation address for Maine Initiatives, Naomi Schalit, now Executive Director of The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, described WERU as “a radio ‘neighborhood’ building community through music, news, and ideas.”
The unique character of WERU Community Radio has not gone without notice in the press over the years. The station has attracted the attention of local television, newspapers and magazines, including Bangor Metro, DownEast, and Maine. In 2003 the station was recognized in Esquire magazine as one of the “Top 12 Best Radio Stations in the United States,” and was noted by the author of a 2005 article in The Financial Times of London that “for two weeks each summer, WERU is addictive.” The station earned a spot in Tim Sample’s Maine Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & other Offbeat Stuff and was even recommended in the Moon Maine Handbook as an information and entertainment resource for visitors to Maine’s Blue Hill Peninsula. WERU also appears in a new short film called The Spirit Of Winter In Mid-coast Maine by Christopher Lehmann, an instructor at the Maine Media College.
WERU will celebrate the 25th Anniversary throughout the year with on-air and community events, including the WERU Spring Fling Music and Gear Sale in Belfast on April 27, a day of special broadcasts on May 1, the new WERU Farm Fresh On-Air Auction on June 6 (featuring gift certificates from local farmers and farmers markets), WERU Boat Talk Cruise in Northeast Harbor in June (date yet to be set), our Annual Open House at WERU on June 29, and a 25th Anniversary Concert with Noel Paul Stookey & Friends (full lineup yet to be determined) on October 6 at The Grand in Ellsworth. For more information, contact Matt Murphy, WERU General Manager, at 469-6600, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us online at http://weru.org/.