March 4, 2011
Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 2009
Over the last five years, this column has crisscrossed the Badger State several times. There was the Big Trip of 2005 that covered most of Wisconsin's big markets, a return trip to Madison and Milwaukee in 2007, and the 2009 visit that we've been chronicling for the last few weeks.
In this week's installment, we're almost done with our jaunt through Cheesehead territory: just after the visits to the Two Rivers and Manitowoc stations we showed you last week, we started driving south on country roads toward the next market to the south, Sheboygan and vicinity.
Our first stop is in a corn field about halfway between Manitowoc and Two Rivers, and it's here (after wading across a shallow creek) that we reach one of the newer signals in the market.
WLKN (98.1) is licensed to Cleveland, Wisconsin, where it signed on in the mid-80s as WKTT on 103.1. (It moved to 98.1 in 1993 to get out of the way of a new signal over in the Appleton market to the west, where WOGB now occupies 103.1.)
Today it's AC "Lake 98.1," and just after our visit in the summer of 2009, WLKN became part of the Seehafer Broadcasting family along with WOMT and WQTC, with studios up in Manitowoc.
As for the local commercial radio scene in Sheboygan itself, it's dominated by Midwest Communications, which operates a cluster of three FMs and an AM out of studios on the south side of town. The three-tower directional array behind the building belongs to the city's oldest station, WHBL (1330), which traces its heritage all the way back to 1928; it's now accompanied here by two class A signals, WBFM (93.7) and WHBZ (106.5). WBFM was the original WHBL-FM on 97.9, later known as WWJR; it shifted from 97.9 to 93.7 to make room for WLKN in 1993, with the WWJR calls then moving from 93.7 to 106.5 when that new signal (licensed to Sheboygan Falls) launched in 1997. Today, 93.7 is country "B93.7," 106.5 is active rock "the Buzz" and a fourth station with studios here, WXER (104.5 Plymouth), does hot AC as "The Point," using a 96.1 translator here in Sheboygan for better city coverage.
Before WXER moved in to the Midwest cluster, it was a sister station to WCLB (950 Sheboygan), which today is a standalone ESPN Radio outlet with a transmitter site behind a self-storage facility in Sheboygan Falls, not far off I-43.
There are just a handful of other signals serving this market locally: WJUB (1420 Plymouth) is owned by a religious group but programs standards from a site west of here; it's a sister to WSTM (91.3 Kiel), which does Christian contemporary. And the Sheboygan Public Schools run WSHS (91.7), the state's first high school station.
We didn't get to those facilities...but we've already been invited back someday for a tour of the Midwest facility, so we'll be featuring Sheboygan again here, someday.
From Sheboygan, we hit I-43 south, largely bypassing Milwaukee (which we've covered in great depth in prior installments) on the way to a few more southern Wisconsin sites before sunset. We'll show you those Kenosha and Racine towers next week - and in the meantime, you can hear some IDs from Sheboygan and vicinity beginning Wednesday on TopHour.com...)