A bit of Hollywood dazzle will be coming to downtown Petaluma on Academy Awards night (Sunday, March 4), as local community radio station KPCA turns the Mystic Theatre into a red-carpeted Oscar party and fundraiser. The full Oscars show will be broadcast live on a very, very big screen, and special activities, food and drink, and cinematic fun will be taking place throughout the evening.
“This event is very important to us,” says John Bertucci, Executive Director of KPCA. “This is our third annual event like this. We expect this one to be very big, because last year, we weren’t on the air yet — and now we are.”
Yes they are. The station can not only be heard online (as it has for over a year now at KPCA.org), but as of last July, it can now be heard via actual radio at 103.3 FM. The actual station is housed in an office complex on Keller Street, just North of Washington St.
“It’s a busy place, especially on days we’re broadcasting,” says Bertucci, leading a short tour of the facility, where a number of staffers and volunteers hustle and bustle about, as the sounds of Beatles tunes fill the air. The music comes courtesy of ‘The Beatles: Under Cover with Walrus Paul’ (that would be Paul Strobeck), the show currently broadcasting from the studio just down the hall.
The station has a number of popular shows on the air throughout the week, with many of the programmers and hosts boosting their weekly listenership through savvy use of Facebook and other social media platforms. Some of those shows are music-based, like the Beatles show. Also in the mix are news shows (‘Project Censored’), entertainment shows (‘Petaluma Radio Players’), talk shows (‘State of the Union’) and family oriented morning programming such as the popular Sunday afternoon shows ‘Nanners and Boo’ and ‘Benedettiville.’
“Our big effort right now is to build Petaluma’s radio reflex,” says Bertucci. “Petaluma hasn’t had a radio station in a long time, so there’s no reflex to turn it on and listen. We have to change that.”
Till recently, the challenge has been creating a radio audience while only being on the air two or three days a week. The station is now broadcasting 4½ days a week, and according to Bertucci, will soon have a lot more hours of listening time to fill. As the stations waits for FCC permission to take KPCA to a 24/7 format, the staff is now preparing for life as a full time community radio station. The question is, when will that happen?
“I was thinking that might happen by the beginning March,” says KPCA Station Manager Rob Tomaszewski. “But now I’m thinking it might be somewhere in the middle of March or so, that we get it all up and running.” Till then, the major project is to gradually add quality shows that Petalumans will want to listen to, and to manage the growth of the station in balance with recruiting committed volunteers and programmers. “We want to keep the bar high,” Tomaszewski says. “Anybody can walk in and start doing their own show, but it’s important that we only put shows on the air that can become appointment radio for the people of Petaluma.”
To support that, the station also needs to build its stable of enthusiastic underwriters and donors. To that end, the Oscar fundraiser is being seen as a tool to let the community know what KPCA stands for, and share a vision of what such a station can mean to the city of Petaluma.
“We’re selling tickets pretty fast,” says Bertucci, “and we hope for a sold out house. A lot of our programmers have been promoting the event during their shows, and that’s helping.” The money raised from tickets and raffles is incredibly important, of course, he allows, but that’s not all. “It’s also important,” Bertucci says, “because it gives us a way to stand up and thank all the people who’ve made possible what we’ve already accomplished. This is our party for our supporters.”
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