Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
August 2017 was a busy, busy month hereabouts. As you know (if you’ve been reading the last half-dozen or so installments of Site of the Week), we started the month on the road, halfway through a long road trip that took us from upstate New York to Denver and back.
When we got back home, it was just for a day or so – and then we were off again for our annual day trip around the east end of Lake Ontario to go see our good friend Freddy Vette in Belleville, Ontario, borrowing a bit of his afternoon airshift on CJBQ (800) to play the oldies (with just enough Can-Con) and have some fun with his listeners.
Before arriving at CJBQ’s bayfront studios, we took a few minutes to drive around north of Belleville to see a few towers we’d never laid eyes on before. Off Read Road a few kms north of Highway 401, there’s a tower putting out signals we often see and hear across the lake – this is TVOntario’s CICO-TV-53 (now on RF channel 26), as well as Radio-Canada’s CJBC-1-FM (94.3) and United Christian Broadcasters’ CKJJ (102.3).
Closer to town, and just north of the 401, CJBQ’s sister station CIGL (97.1) broadcasts from a shorter tower in a little clearing off the intersection of Highways 62 and 33, right by the local Lowe’s Hardware.
After checking out the FM and TV sites, we head south straight down Front Street to Quinte Broadcasting’s space on the top floor of an office building overlooking the Bay of Quinte.
We’d been watching this space change over the last few years, as the studios built in the late 1980s have been freshened up with new equipment, new paint and a shuffle that swapped space between CJBQ and CIGL.
On this visit, we got to see the finished product (insofar as any broadcast facility is ever truly finished), complete with new graphics adorning the full height of each of the studio doors.
Down at the far end of the facility from the lobby, the corner studio that used to be CJBQ now belongs to CIGL (“Mix 97”), with purple walls and an open layout that has the air talent looking out over that amazingly scenic vista.
CIGL’s old studio across the hall is now CJBQ’s, with a talk studio in between. (The door to that studio now proudly proclaims it to be the home of the Lorne Brooker Show, a local morning institution.)
The third station in the cluster, CJTN (107.1 Quinte West), now makes its home down the hall in what had been the production studio, with deep red walls and prominent “Rock 107” branding. And across the hall from that is the newsroom, one of the last areas to get the full renovation. It’s very open-plan now here, too, both in the newsroom itself and in the adjoining news booths.
After saying our farewells to Freddy and his shiny new studios, we headed back across the border for a couple of days’ rest before heading out yet again – this time for an event with a very, very fixed schedule.
We had one afternoon and evening to get from western New York to southern Indiana to be in position for the total solar eclipse on the afternoon of Monday, August 21 – and it all played out even better than we’d expected.
We knew we’d end up somewhere along the totality path in western Kentucky, and we were pretty sure it would be the friendly little town of Marion – but we didn’t know that the town park where they were directing eclipse viewers to set up happened to be within sight of the local radio tower!
Yes, the lights came on over at the tower of WMJL (1500)/WMJL-FM (102.7) as the moon passed across the sun. And yes, it was one of the most amazing things we have ever seen. And yes, we’re already stoked for the next total eclipse that will pass right over our own backyard in 2024.
And yes, once the sun had emerged and the day had returned to normal August swelter, we drove out of the park by way of the WMJL studio and transmitter, though nobody was around for the tour. (It’s subsequently been sold.)
Did I mentioned we planned this thing out very carefully? While other eclipse fans were sitting in hours of stopped traffic on more major roads like I-69 to our east, we cruised back up a quiet US 60 on our way up to northeast Indiana, stopping along the way to take in a couple of other sites we hadn’t seen on earlier trips.
Morganfield, Kentucky is one of the few sizable towns on 60 between Marion and the Indiana line, and it’s home to WMSK-FM (101.3 Sturgis) and AM sister WUCO (1550 Morganfield), sharing a studio and tower along 60 just south of downtown Morganfield. Look closely at the tower and you’ll also spot WUCO’s newish translator, W299CH (107.7).
Crossing the Ohio River into Evansville, Indiana, our last tower stop on this magical eclipse day is a nice dusk view of WGBF (1280), followed by five hours of I-69 on the way up to Fort Wayne – and then a few days in Michigan, which we’ll start chronicling for you in next week’s installment.
Thanks to Freddy Vette for the Belleville visit!
We have a great lineup of podcasts here on our site. While you’re catching up with your summer reading, don’t forget about your summer listening. Now is the time to make sure you’re up to date with Top of the Tower.
Our latest one features Donna Halper discussing her life in radio, from her time at WMMS when she helped Rush get US airplay, to what she learned from Arnie “Woo Woo” Ginsburg.
Don’t forget you can still visit our store to check out our other great products. We’ll be taking preorders for the 2021 calendar soon. Stay tuned!
And don’t miss a big batch of Ontario IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: Michigan 2018 (part I)