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KVMR Celebrates 40th Birthday With 7-Band Party in Pioneer Park

Well, you couldn't have  much more success than KVMR 89.5 FM's "Summer Of Love" celebration a year ago:  they ran out of wristbands for an event that was selling low-priced tickets at the gate only. And had to haul in extra beer on top of that. 

All as a fun-loving, into-the-moment, unexpectedly large crowd of 800 turned out at Nevada City's Pioneer Park band shell, dancing and prancing in such slinky shades of ultra-colorful garb that even the tie dye blushed. But wearing a teeshirt and shorts was just fine, too. 

This Saturday (July 21), the forecast is more good vibes. 

You could say it's a Summer of Love festival for KVMR and the official  celebration of the Nevada City community radio station's 40th birthday, once again at Pioneer Park, once again from later afternoon (3:30 p.m.)  to late evening (10 p.m.), once again with tickets at just $10 general admission ($5 for veterans and youth 15 and younger), once again available only at the gate. And, once again, yes, there'll be room for all. 

"It was a wonderful Summer of Love celebration, but, you know, we had a lot of young people there, too, it's a reasonably priced event, and it was wonderful they came out to support KVMR," said event co-producer Diane McIntire, a former KVMR Board President. "We had so many people asking us to do it again." 

Oh, don't worry, there'll be more kegs of beer this year, and an abundant number of wristbands. You may be able to dress in them. 



Hey, celebrate like life begins at 40, with seven music artists on two stages, including: 

--Saul and Elena Rayo 

--Grease, Grit & Grime Trio 

--Paul Kamm and Eleanore McDonald 

--Brandy Robinson 

--Achilles Wheel Trio 

--The Heifer Belles, including KVMR broadcaster Kim Rogers on pedal steel guitar, an instrument rare for a woman to play. But Kim does, and well. 

--Buck Love & The Humperheads, classic rockers including KVMR's Mikail Graham, a volunteer broadcaster since the first year back in 1978. 



"Even in my short lifetime here (24 years), I'm amazed at how much the station has grown, how much more influence it has," said music artist Elena Rayo after a recent performance on Jenny Michael's Wednesday Music Magazine. "Sure, social media is great but having a physical presence and building like KVMR has, well, it's special." 

"In fact, one of the big reasons I moved here was KVMR," she added. "It's the spinal chord of our community...a real family." 

Says her husband Saul Rayo, "it's the hub, it's the center.  I'm serious, without the station, this place could have turned into a (cultural) desert. " 

And it's played quite the role in people's lives. 

"I remember a crisp December evening many years ago when Eleanore and I were married at the Miner's Foundry (then the American Victorian Museum)" said Paul Kamm. "The next night we sang on the very first KVMR Nightlive broadcast."

"Our Honeymoon, spent with KVMR and the listening community," noted wife Eleanore McDonald. "But what an amazing gift KVMR is."

"It's a place I can go to find information I need regarding local emergencies, hear the independent musicians I love and hear discussions of important local and national issues and the voices of the DJs I've loved through the years," she added.

The last few years have seen the station in quite a spurt of growth, including a new state-of-the-art 8000 square foot building attached to the 152-year-old Nevada Theatre and its new spacious backstage.. 

Plus the station has new regional signals in Truckee (105.1 FM),  Camino/Placerville (88.3 FM), Woodland/Davis (93.9 FM) and now all the way down to Angels Camp at 99.5 FM, while keeping its Nevada City style.

It all officially started July 14, 1978 when broadcasters-to-be Jima Abbott and Bobby Angel and engineer Lee Amundsen were in a shed high atop Banner Mountain. 



"I was the first person to speak on the air," remembered Abbott, who left the station in the early '90s to live in Mendocino. "I wish I could say I said something really cool but in the rush of getting it together, all I said was 'Are we on? What do I do?' and I've had to live with that. I've met people who heard it."

Bobby Angel says he grabbed the microphone after that and said "Hi, folks" 

"I don't think I ever stopped talking after that until I left the station," Angel added with a grin. 

Hey, this Saturday, you'll find a variety of food and drink vendors on site,  art by KVMR artists on sale, plus a kids booth, and something McIntire can't wait to see. 

"We've put together a Banner Shack exhibit, pictures and memorabilia of our very beginning months broadcasting on Banner Mountain, plus great photos from throughout the years" she said. "We've come so far since then." 

Longtime broadcaster Hap Hazard (er, George Grist) definitely remembers driving up to that shack for the very first time to get trained to do his very first show.

According to Grist, "As soon as I arrived at the wooden shack, the people there said, 'Oh, good, he's here, we can go now' and they left."

Don't worry, the station now has an annual training program and nearly 200 active broadcasters when you include those hosting shows on a special  stream at that's geared toward indie pop, hip hop and other millennial musical tastes.



"We're seeing -- and hearing -- the future unfold before our very eyes," mused McIntire about KVMRx. 

Birthday Party co-producer and KVMR board member/broadcaster Adela Wilcox goofed, "We're all 'growed up' now. The fact is KVMR has done so well, we're more successful than ever." 

Wilcox has a point.

Both on-air membership drives this year have raised the most money since one in 2011, as in seven years ago. 

"We listen to and engage in the community," added KVMR General Manager Julie Chiarelli. "In addition to our diverse music programming, we broadcast community forums on a variety of topics as well as countless live broadcasts of music events."

"We are so much more than  a radio station." 

Cue the good vibes. 


As KVMR 89.5 FM signs on from its new building in February, 2015, broadcasters and volunteers crowd the new studio.



WHO:  KVMR 89.5 FM Community Radio

WHAT: KVMR 40th Birthday Party, with music by Buck Love & The Humperheads, Heifer Belles, Achilles Wheel Trio, Brandy Robinson, Grease, Grit & Grime, Paul Kamm & Eleanor McDonald, Saul & Elena Rayo.

WHEN: Saturday (July 21), 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

WHERE:  Pioneer Park Band Shell, Nimrod Street, Nevada City

TICKETS:  $10 at the gate only ($5 for veterans and youth 15 and under)

INFO: or 530/265-9073


Photo By Steve Hillis, Mountain Pastimes