Plans are underway to inaugurate a community radio station based in Jim Thorpe in 2013.
Roots Town Radio is the vision of partners Burr Beard and Dawn Warner. "She and I have a dream," Beard began. "We met in the Lehigh Valley and explored the mountains and found Jim Thorpe. We love this area and have been trying to create our own radio station here."
"We formed a nonprofit organization called Roots Town Radio, Inc.," Beard continued. "Its mission is to start a radio station and to relate it to musical and dance events that maintain traditional culture and history of our area. That to me, speaks to the music of the immigrants from Eastern and Western Europe that settled the area and brought their music here, the music of the miners, and folk, old-time fiddle music, and Irish music, as well as newer forms like bluegrass and country music."
"Those are the kinds of things that I am interested in as far as genres of music, and areas of history." Beard is partnering with the Mauch Chunk Museum, the Mauch Chunk Historical Society, and the Summit Hill Historical Society.
Beard became interested in history and music when he formed a band to play at dances at the Student Union ballroom at his college in Pittsburgh. "I am interested in industrial history. I found the music, the writing, the poetry, and the culture that came out of the immigrant experience to be a driving force in my life."
Roots Town Radio has applied for a low-power FM FCC radio license. As a result of the Community Radio Act, a number of low-power FM licenses will be available to nonprofits next year. Beard proposes to transmit from a 100 watt tower at the top of Flagstaff Mountain. He anticipates that the station would serve a 15-mile radius and cover Palmerton, Lehighton, Jim Thorpe and Nesquehoning.
Beard has been a station manager for more than 20 years and has managed radio at WDIY in Bethlehem, Lehigh Carbon Community College, and stations in North Carolina, where after 15 years he decided to return to his home state of Pennsylvania.
While working in radio in the Lehigh Valley, he get to know the producers at the Mauch Chunk Opera House and gain the fondness of the town of Jim Thorpe. Now that he's living here, He sees an opportunity to develop a new radio station. He wants it to be community radio station, but not an NPR affiliate. "The goal is not to be another WVIA," Beard said.
To fund the radio station, Beard applied for a $20,000 Community Block Grant through the state of Pennsylvania. The funding will cover the costs of studio and transmission equipment. When the project gets going, he hopes to transmit 24 hours a day with a staff of up to 20 volunteers.
Also to help fund the community station, Beard is hosting a series of fundraisers. There will be three contra dances with live music and a caller at the Mauch Chunk Museum on October 19, November 16, and December 14. On December 17, Free Range Folk will present a concert at the Summit Hill Heritage Center. On November 3, also at the Summit Hill Heritage Center, there will be a concert of Coal & Roots Music.