- You can't find public radio stations as easily as you can find commercial radio stations in the Northwoods. That's because they're funded mostly by donations. However, one Rhinelander radio station has found a way to make it work for more than 30 years.
"The station came about as the result of a dream, really, of a fella named Peter Nordgrin who came from northern Minnesota at a station very similar to this one," said Ken Krall, news director and interim station manager at 91.7 WXPR in Rhinelander. "He realized that there was a hole in northern Wisconsin for public radio."
WXPR went on the air in 1983. They fundraised for years in the late 1970's to get an FCC license. Founders wanted a public radio station with content put on the air completely by volunteers.
"It used to be in a house down at the end of a dead end street," said Krall. "It didn't have a lot of visibility but it had a lot of charm."
"It was much different technologically back then," said Walt Gander, operations director for WXPR. "We receive a lot of programs through the public radio satellite system. We were literally recording those programs on cassettes. And when we needed to change the channel from one satellite channel to another, it was a manual turning of dials."
WXPR moved to its current location on Stevens street in 2012. The move brought some big changes in broadcast technology.
"When we moved into this building, we went to the audio over IP protocol," said Gander. "Any audio device now that we use that we put on air we can route it anywhere in the station with a few clicks of the mouse."
Every voice you hear on WXPR is a volunteer from the Northwoods with either an interest in radio or a specific genre of music.
"When I moved to the Northwoods and realized that we had a public station up here, and a community public station, I was very excited," said Molly Rose Teuke, a volunteer on-air host at WXPR. "I called WXPR and said 'I'd like to volunteer.' And in I came, they trained me, and now they can hardly get me out of the studio."
Teuke has been an on-air host for WXPR since March. She spent many years writing for a magazine, and continues to write for Minocqua's Visitor Guide. Teuke had thought about volunteering for a long time, and when she decided to try it out, she immediately fell in love.
"I've, kind-of done a lot on the music front," said Teuke. "Classical music is what I do on a regular basis every Thursday morning. But I have managed a lot of hosting on WXPR. I've hosted Country Legends, big band music, and I've even hosted Polka."
There are roughly 50 volunteer on-air staff members that have weekly shifts on WXPR. Since the station is not a part of the State Public Radio Network, they have to rely heavily on donations from listeners and local businesses.
"Most of the fundraising that happens is done on air," said Jessie Dick, development director for WXPR. "We host pledge drives where we come on the air and take a brief break from either the news or the music programming and explain to WXPR listeners why they should donate, what their donation dollars will do, what it'll bring, not only them but the rest of the community as well."
The station recently hired Pete Rondello as station manager. He's currently a real-estate broker at Coldwell Banker in Minocqua.
"Pete has had a background in radio," said Krall. "He's been in real-estate since that time until now. We think his background is just perfect for us, and he's a great guy and we're really looking forward to having him come on board."
WXPR can be heard on 100.9 FM in Ironwood Michigan, and 91.9 FM out of Wausau.