Text and photos by SCOTT FYBUSH
If you like the sorts of things we enjoy here at Site of the Week, you’d probably enjoy a visit to Jamestown, New York, an hour or so south of Buffalo in the southwestern corner of the state.
Beautiful scenery along Chautauqua Lake? An increasingly vibrant downtown core? Good eats? Great walking trails?
Jamestown has all of that – and the amazing National Comedy Center and its sister museum commemorating Jamestown native Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
In the summer and fall of 2021, we made two visits to Jamestown, one to spend a day at the comedy center, and the other to show off Jamestown’s broadcast facilities to Mike Fitzpatrick of NECRAT.us.
Along the way down from Rochester, we had a bit of business to carry out. Over the years, we’ve prided ourselves on being able to find and get to just about every broadcast facility in the region, no matter how rough the road or how obscure the location. So we were frustrated back in the fall of 2020 to spend an hour on the campus of Alfred University, a little over an hour east of Jamestown, without finding campus station WALF (89.7).
Armed this time with portable radios with signal meters and a burning desire to avoid a second humiliating failure, we tramped into the woods above the campus and soon found WALF’s little tower and transmitter shack, all but invisible in the forest that has grown around it since it signed on FM in the 1970s.
Heading west through Olean and Salamanca, we began our Jamestown tour east of the city, following a logging road along the Pennsylvania state line near the Allegany River, turning around at a dead end, then trying again and succeeding in our next quest, the Family Life Ministries station serving Jamestown. WCOT (90.9) used to be licensed to Jamestown itself, but now uses Tidioute, Pennsylvania as its city of license, backfilling so that a former Tidioute station could be moved south. (We saw an interim move of that station, now WCGT 88.7 Clinton, in one of last year’s installments.)
The WCOT site itself never moved – it’s on Brown Run Road near the Martz Observatory, up in the hills east of Jamestown.
Another scenic drive through those hills brings us to Chautauqua County’s Erlandson Overview Park, high on Oak Hill in Frewsburg, which offers both a majestic view down into the valley and Jamestown itself, but also boasts a county tower complex that’s home to WNJA (89.7), the Jamestown relay signal of Buffalo’s classical public station, WNED-FM (94.5).
The approach into Jamestown from the southwest can, if one is so inclined, go past the Lighthouse Baptist Church, where the little vertical antenna of WOGM-LP (104.7) is on a pole out back.
Coming into downtown, look up as you cross the river – a block away from the Comedy Center, the old Jamestown Furniture Exhibition warehouse has cell antennas on its roof and the two-bay antenna of WIHR-LP (94.1), another religious signal that wasn’t on the air during this visit.
It’s a short walk to the east, just a few blocks, over to the Reg Lenna (rhymes with “array”) Center, the local performing arts and cultural facility that houses a vintage theater, performing arts space – and WRFA-LP (107.9), the community LPFM here in town. (Full disclosure: your editor subsequently began working with WRFA on a studio rebuild.)
We enjoyed a quick tour of WRFA’s second-floor studio space on our first visit to Jamestown, and check out how nice these rooms are (and how much potential they have!)
The main studio hallway runs past two rooms on the window side of the building, a production room and an office space for WRFA’s community programmers.
Across the hall are two more sound-isolated spaces, a news studio (where news director Julie Ciesla-Hanley is preparing her newscasts) and a main control room area where, among other things, game broadcasts for the local collegiate ball team, the Jamestown Tarp Skunks, are produced.
As part of the larger Reg Lenna family, WRFA also has access to a large room upstairs that’s used for various live gatherings and performances, as well as political debates. There’s a control room for audio and video for that room that can also feed audio back downstairs for WRFA broadcasts.
There’s just one other WRFA space here to check out – tucked away on the other side of the floor is a little closet that holds the LPFM station’s transmitter, feeding a line right up to the antenna on the roof.
Is there commercial radio in town? Of course there is – and we’ll show you more of those towers, and then the other end of Chautauqua County, in next week’s installment!
Thanks to WRFA’s Jason Sample for the tour!
CALENDARS ON CLEARANCE
If you don’t have your 2023 Tower Site Calendar yet, now is the perfect time to get it. Because we have lowered the price to just $14.
The calendar has great photos of broadcast sites near and far (everywhere from Navajo Nation on the cover to Boston to Toronto to Texas, and beyond), plus a lovely “centerfold” you can keep on your wall for 2024.
It’s still shipping regularly, and you can have yours in just a couple of days!
Order your copy and you’ll see what we mean.
If you have already ordered your calendar, make sure you check out the other items in the store, too!
And don’t miss a big batch of Southern Tier IDs next Wednesday, over at our sister site, TopHour.com!
Next week: More Jamestown, and beyond