The Brown County Hour started with a flash of inspiration in 2007. Planning, learning and acquiring new skills started a year later with around two dozen volunteers, which led to its premier July 24 on WFHB Community Radio.
The show features Brown County residents and adopts a flexible, hour-long variety-show format with a range of elements that includes arts, music, history, storytelling, theater and natural resources. After it airs each time, the Brown County Hour will be archived and available for download and podcast on it Web site and WFHB.
The idea for the program arose when residents were raising money to erect a WFHB radio translator in county seat Nashville, which was completed in 2007. Brown County has about 14,500 residents.
Pam Raider, 62, was one of those volunteers. "When I was collecting money for the radio tower, no one thought it was a bad idea to have a community radio," she says. "I've never been a part of any project where everyone agreed on it. There's religion, politics, etc., that people always disagree on, but not this."
Raider, originally from California, became a Hoosier when she married one in 1973 and moved to Indiana. The two relocated to Brown County in 1986.
Raider and Jeff Foster, 56, are the main producers of Brown County Hour. "Brown County is such a rich place of artists, musicians, eccentric characters and tall tales," she says. "I thought a show involving these elements would be really successful."
Foster lives in Bloomington but laughs when he says he thinks he has more friends in Brown County. He got involved with the project when Frank Jones, Brown County resident, musician and owner of Calzone Jones restaurant, brought his attention to it. Foster says they showed up at the first meeting and just kept going.
He explains that early on Jones had an eye on being the host. Foster masters (compiles the segments into the final mix) and oversees the show's Web site, while Raider is the fearless leader, he smiles and says.
Different volunteers were assigned responsibilities for various segments -- news, arts, theater and so on. Most people had to be trained because they had never interviewed before or worked with radio studio equipment.
Both Raider and Foster say the show wouldn't have been possible without Chad Carrothers, executive producer of Brown County Hour and news director for WFHB.
Raider smiles and says he was everyone's teacher, overseeing every step.
"I can't say enough about Chad," Foster says. "He's put in countless hours himself, helping anyone out with anything. This is something he's been committed to since the beginning."
Foster says he and Raider have probably put more time into it than anyone else, but he loves doing it. The two make calls, attend to e-mails and are present for tapings, training sessions, etc.
"I make a living doing music, and that gives me lots of time to do this," he explains. "I also have a very understanding wife."
Raider estimated between 10-20 hours a week are invested in the show. It's been a lot of work, she says. If she had known just how much, she probably wouldn't have done it. However, she believes it could be a blessing because when people get so involved and excited about something, they don't think about all the work.
"I think it helps us rise to occasions we didn't believe we could accomplish," she says.
In December 2009, a fundraiser held at Mike's Dance Barn, located on 2277 Old State Road 46, raised $4,000. This was enough funds to purchase the necessary studio equipment. Through a partnership with the Brown County Historical Society, the Brown County Hour's studio is located inside the Traditional Arts Building in downtown Nashville. Other partnerships include the Brown County Chamber of Commerce, the Brown County Economic Development Commission, the Brown County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Brown County Democrat newspaper.
The July 24 debut had a summer theme. It was kind of a preview of how Brown County Hour will run.
This show features artists, musicians and elders talking about the difference between now and then, the Brown County writers group, a couple of poets, a theater section, historical pieces, a calendar section, a police log section for news and a third-generation Brown County resident storyteller.
"Here's a forum to celebrate our community. It's great because everyone can be involved." - Pam Raider, Brown County Hour
Raider thinks it helps to have a theme because with so much talent to choose from in Brown County, it narrows the scope.
Foster explains that the show is previously recorded in segments in the studio. Then he uploads it to the server and pieces it together. He says that eventually they hope to do live broadcasts.
"Here's a forum to celebrate our community," Raider says. "It's great because everyone can be involved."
Foster says they take inspiration from Prairie Home Companion, but they do the show in their own style, Brown County style.
Two locations in Nashville, Chateau Thomas Winery and the Traditional Arts Center, plan to air the pilot episode of Brown County Hour at noon on July 24. Foster planned to go to Calzone Jones after the broadcast to celebrate.
"It's going to be a full day of celebration," he says a few days before the debut. "A lot of people are excited about the potential of the show."
What the future holds
The volunteers are currently working on the second show, scheduled to air in October. It will have a fall theme. If they gather enough material by then, the show staff will vote to switch from quarterly to monthly broadcasts.
As a community all the volunteers involved are grateful to WFHB for allowing us this opportunity, Raider says. "It shows that WFHB really is a community station because they're willing to embrace all listeners."
"Brown County is such a rich place of artists, musicians, eccentric characters and tall tales." - Jeff Foster, Brown County Hour
She believes the show will be a success because people in Brown County have a community spirit and love its lore. Residents will hear others they know on the show, be pleased and want to be a part of it themselves.
"You can't make everyone happy," Raider explains. "But, let's put it this way, like with every new project our best shows are in the future." She smiles.
There's such an enormous amount of talent in every dimension of the arts in Brown County, Foster says. There would be no shortage of talent, even if they switched to monthly shows.
"If you asked me, 'Is the first show perfect?' I'd say, 'No, I don't think it's perfect,' but it's a perfect debut show," Foster says. "Everyone did a great job stepping up to the plate -- I'm really proud of everyone."
Brown County Hour expects to continue doing shows and possibly be broadcast out to other stations.
"If we hang together, the sky's the limit in creativity," Raider smiles and says. "It could go in multiple directions."
Megan Erbacher can be reached at email@example.com.
For more information
Brown County Hour