Saving the radio

By Ashleigh Bartlett
Special to the Sun

Photo by Ashleigh Bartlett / Special to the Sun:
Event organizers stand with Charlie Busch, far right, to help fund repairs for his Alta Sierra Broadcasting equipment. Left to right, organizers include Roberta Piazza Gordon, Debbie Teofilo, Randy Fieber and Karen Hartfield.

On Saturday, May 11, community members rallied together and attended a fundraiser gala to “Save the Radio,” an evening assembled and presented by Karen Hartfield and Friends of Kern River Radio.

A total of just under $8,000 was raised to upgrade radio transmission in the Kern River Valley and replace equipment lost in the Erskine Fire of 2016.

“If I’ve learned anything about this community, it is that we look out for each other,” said Charlie Busch of Kern River Radio in his humble opening statement. “I have seen that as long as it’s a worthwhile venture, with worthwhile people standing behind it, we will come together to support it.”

Busch mentioned the $75,000 crowdsourced by the community just a few years ago for the Reel Cinema located in Wofford Heights when it was in desperate need of a digital projection system.
The venue was donated by glorious host and owner of the Pine Cone Inn, Roberta Piazza Gordon, with an exquisite dinner arrangement from The Starlite Lounge, and music by the infamous Kern River Band prior to the live auction. Items for auction were donated by local business owners and residents, as well as Bakersfield residents, artists, etc.

Gift certificates for experiences, such as fly fishing lessons with Guy Jeans or stays at community inns, as well as for a multitude of other businesses and restaurants, were offered. Paintings, prints, and jewelry, handmade soaps, even hand-curated baskets for sundae making or Italian-inspired dinners auctioned for generally fair prices. However, it was gently reminded to all that the cause was justifiable. One local woman paid $35 for a $25 certificate to Pizza Barn, showcasing exactly what this community is made of.

Asked about National Public Radio (NPR), Busch noted that there is currently an organization called Valley Public Radio, with frequencies in Bakersfield and Visalia, and as far as Fresno, as NPR here could be, “a close to impossible task.” The VPR organization is very difficult to get into, which is why Busch has chosen his current path.

He has purchased a license for an AM transmission, which is ideally intended to be broadcast in synchronization with the FM station currently assigned to him, 103.7, a 24/7 station. The question is now format and genre, possibly leaning towards ‘50s and ‘60s era oldies and mo-town.

Busch made sure to mention the County of Kern and the Bureau of Land Management, attributing the radio station’s new location at Rocky Point to their invaluable support.

A silver bracelet made and donated specifically for this event by Andy Alvarez of StarHorse Gallery garnered $450, the highest-priced item of the evening. A metal sculpture of a dancer, crafted and donated by John Clark, fetched $375.

Those interested in donating to the station should contact Karen Hartfield of Friends of Kern River Radio, or Busch at Kern River Radio.