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From the Editor

KHEN Community Radio, 106.9 FM, is turning ten years old this month and as a birthday gift, will soon be relocating to larger digs in a building that most recently served as the local constabulary.

I was lucky enough to have been one of the “early birds” to witness and participate in the initial hatching of the fledgling, low-power, 100-watt, all-volunteer station back during the heady days of the G.W. Bush, post-911 years. Right out of the box, the station made clear it was not going to shy away from politics. The invasion of Iraq had just begun, and I distinctly remember Democracy Now with Amy Goodman’s somber broadcast “the ground war has started,” emanating from the tiny studio off of a back alley downtown.

What I found most amazing about the station was, and still is, the dedication of the volunteers who have managed to scratch and scrape along, despite the financial odds.

Visiting the front office of the “hen house” is like entering a cozy living room. You never know who might be parked on the couch, chomping on a cookie: maybe the mayor, a county commissioner or the director of the Boys and Girls Club. Often there are poets or musicians, casually awaiting their turn behind the mike. Sometimes folks are just there for the vibe. Ed and Martha Quillen were regular guests for some time on KHEN. Susan Tweit hosted a local program. I had a weekly Monday night slot for several years, the “Grab Bag,” and can recall the excitement when the city granted permission for the station to erect a broadcast tower on Tenderfoot Hill, currently the highest physical object within city limits. KHEN had hoped to gain some signal strength; but FM radio waves being what they are, they ended up reaching the tops of Poncha and Monarch Passes but gave only a faint signal to folks in nearby Piñon Hills.

There’s been some controversy along the way. When some former county commissioners granted a sum of $1,000 seed money to the station, several citizens voiced outrage about their tax dollars going to an entity that broadcast programs such as This Way Out.

But the dedicated volunteers have always stood their ground and I truly believe Salida is a better-informed community for it. (I do suggest they consider banishing The Eagles from their music library, though. Eagles are really not good for the health of chickens.)

Frankly, I am surprised that it is still “clucking” after all these years. Being in the gray area of not quite big enough for grants and very dependent on the generosity and benevolence of the community, its financial footing has always been somewhat tentative. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, they cannot sell ads, only underwriting, requiring tenacious door knocking and cold calling. Membership drives help, but listeners quickly tire of pleas for money. They’d rather just be listening to The Thomas Jefferson Hour.

The new prime-time location on East 3rd Street will likely be a boon to the station, with greater exposure and, hopefully, a new crop of community volunteers. A partnership with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra is only the latest feather in the hen hat.

Based upon first-hand knowledge, I can tell you that KHEN does know how to throw a party, and for that, you are in luck because they happen to be hosting their 10th anniversary shindig on Saturday evening, March 2 at the Salida Community Center, right next door to the new digs. I would recommend stopping by just to meet some of these amazing folks, have some birthday cake and share a chicken joke!

On a sadder note, Salida lost one of its finer community members as well as an early cheerleader of my efforts with this publication. Our friend Lum Pennington passed away on Jan. 26 at the age of 61 after a very brave fight against pancreatic cancer. Lum was my proofreader early on. She helped whip the grammar into shape, keeping an eye out for dangling participles and extraneous hyphens with a gentle nudge and an eye roll. Sometimes I think she is still looking over my shoulder when I’m having issues with design or layout.

Lum also volunteered for the Chaffee County Foodshed Alliance, KHEN Radio and the Holiday Park Christmas trees, among other organizations. She will be greatly missed. — Mike Rosso