rico shay and WMMT

“The first caller to pledge at the $50 level will receive this dog!”
Photo: Julie Ardery

Spring is in the air. And on the airwaves.

The floral indicators of springtime emerge at different times across rural America. But there is one sign we can all set our seasonal clocks by ““ public radio on-air fund drives. From Maine to California, the phone lines are open and ready for your pledge, it seems. Small community stations, National Public Radio affiliates, Christian broadcasters “¦ all have roughly the same schedule when it comes to their semiannual fund drives.

Late March and early April are peak season in the Southern Appalachians, which is my neck of the woods. I’m willing to bet the on-air pitches bloom in your area just about the same time, regardless of when the dogwoods blossom (or cactus or tundra or whatever other flower announces spring for you).

At my university-based NPR affiliate, WUOT , which broadcasts from one county over, the precise diction of classical music announcers tells me which classical or jazz CD I can get with a generous pledge. Down the dial at a folk and bluegrass station, WDVX , much twangier voices offer regional flavor and a dandy CD of Americana performers. And elsewhere across the dial, I can get CDs of sacred music or perhaps even a prayer request with my love offering.

git r done

KAXE, Northern Community Radio, Grand Rapids, MN, just wrapped up its spring fund drive. With help from Larry the Cable Guy (“Git-r-Done!”), the station has raised over $54,000
Photo: KAXE

I’m luckier than most rural folks when it comes to my selection in noncommercial radio stations. I’m close enough to an urban center to pick up the high-brow classical station with lots of news. I’m one of the lucky few who have an independent noncommercial station that broadcasts regional and traditional music. If the winds are right, I can pick up an Americana station, WNCW, that airs a different set of news programs. And in between there are plenty of Christian stations with music, preaching, and their own brand of good news.

With so many nonprofit stations, trying to avoid the pledge drive here is like trying to avoid pollen. It can’t be done.

The other day I called a friend at her business number. The person who answered said, “WMMT, would you like to make a pledge?” Trapped. I had failed to consider the season when I made my call. A few dollars later I was off the line and, truth be told, feeling pretty good about participating in the springtime ritual.

My favorite radio solicitation didn’t come over the air but popped into my email inbox this morning. Koahnic Broadcast Corporation, which produces Native America Calling, National Native News and Native Voice One, is having their first ever Native Art Auction. The event is April 19 in Albuquerque at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. There are going to be radio personalities, a comedian, a Lakota opera singer, an Eskimo dance troupe and other native musicians.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend. But I bet my friends at Koahnic will make it possible to bid on Native American art without having to leave my living room. That’s the great thing about noncommercial radio. The lines are always open and operators are standing by.

Happy pledging.

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