YourQfm plans tower, celebration
BAGLEY -- As YourQfm approaches its 20th anniversary, the Christian radio station is planning to simultaneously celebrate its past and future.
The station is throwing a party -- Higher Height to Shine the Light -- on July 27 in Bagley as it dedicates land for a new radio tower. The celebration then will culminate at Bagley High School with a Jason Gray concert.
"It's all very exciting," said Phil Ehlke, who has served as the general manager for the station for the last 20 years.
The construction of the tower will allow the station to add height and power, thus increasing its ability to reach more people more clearly. It also will mark the end of a long-term lease agreement.
"We should be ordering steel and building the tower (around) October," Ehlke said. "But we might actually be doing some of the foundation work in late August or early September."
That timing prompted an opportunity.
YourQfm, with support from the nonprofit Shine the Line Inc., and translators in Walker, Park Rapids, Thief River Falls, Roseau and Grand Forks, N.D., to rebroadcast the station, has always relied on its listeners as partners. The station, which broadcasts in Bemidji at 107.1, today concludes a four-day drive seeking foundation partners, those willing to contribute $75 per person to support the station and cover the foundation costs associated with the tower.
"We've always relied on our listeners for some of our support," Ehlke said. "For this particular project, the foundation costs, we would love to have those covered."
Additionally, as a Christian station dedicated to sharing the love and Gospel of Jesus Christ, Ehlke said it was rather symbolic.
"There's something almost biblical about that, the foundation," he said. "We view Christ as the foundation of our lives, God the rock. It's a neat visual to have our partners, our listeners, with us at that level, at the foundation level."
In exchange for their support, foundation partners are invited to the 5 p.m. dedication of the tower land, located six miles north of Bagley on Radar Hill, and will receive a ticket to the 7 p.m. Jason Gray concert. Between events, they will receive complimentary concessions and be eligible for door prizes, including the grand prize, an ocean-view cabin on the Family Life, Love Like You Mean it Cruise on Feb. 10-14, and associated airfare.
Committed to two states
The Fosston-based radio station went live on Nov. 1, 1993, then known as Q107, referencing its location on the radio dial.
"We live in a time when it's hard to distinguish truth from what is not true," said Dennis Parish, the station representative in Bemidji, about the popularity of Christian radio. "We want to let them know the truth is there."
As the station became increasingly popular in areas outside of Fosston and Bemidji, it changed its name to YourQfm.
In 2008, it opened a satellite office in Bemidji and in February 2011, it opened a studio in Grand Forks. Three full-time employees work out of the Grand Forks office, including program director Kerri Drees.
"That was a huge, huge growth step for us," Ehlke said. "It gave the station a presence in a city whereas before "we were just that Fosston station they could hear there."
But the station remains committed to its Minnesota roots.
"We've had some longtime Bemidji people say, 'You guys are starting to sound like a Grand Forks station,'" Ehlke said, attributing that perception to increased Grand Forks advertising.
But YourQfm is about to take an even bigger presence in Bemidji as the station plans a studio here by November. If the Federal Communication Commission approves plans, the Bemidji studio will replace the Fosston studio; if not, it will be a third studio for the station.
"We've got a really exciting spot downtown," Ehlke said.
Qfm is operated by Pine to Prairie Broadcasting, a for-profit business that also owns two other Fosston-based stations, a country station and an AM station.
"For the first 10 years, the (two other) local stations kind of helped subsidize getting this Christian station on its feet," Ehlke said. "As time went on, the Christian station really started to be self-sufficient and that's where our focus really was."
Eventually, as YourQfm continued to grow, it began to actually support the other stations.
"We couldn't continue to do that because it wasn't right," Ehlke said. "People were supporting the station, this station."
So Pine to Prairie Broadcasting made made plans to sell the other two stations. Ehlke said R & J Broadcasting out of Mahnomen has been leasing those stations for nearly a year -- since Aug. 1 it has been running those stations completely on its own -- and a purchase agreement is in place.
Once the new tower is operational -- R & J Broadcasting has partnered with Pine to Prairie on its construction -- the transaction will be finalized.
"They're a terrific radio company that is all about local radio, sports, news, all that," Ehlke said. "They were a perfect fit to buy those two local stations in Fosston."
--PULLOUT--To learn more:
YourQfm broadcasts on 107.1 in the Bemidji area.
To learn more about the station, visits its website at yourqfm.com or its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/yourqfm.
To become a foundation partner for the Higher Height to Shine the Light celebration, call (800) 435-1071.