'We Are GA': WRGG, Greencastle's community radio station, celebrates five years on the air

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Sometimes it seems like WRGG 93.7 FM's been on the air for five minutes and sometimes it seems like 50 years, according to Wade Burkholder, development director.

Greencastle-Antrim's low-power, nonprofit radio station debuted five years ago on June 14, 2016, and capped more than a year of unprecedented community involvement during the COVID-19 pandemic with a drive-by fund drive on Friday and Saturday, June 11 and 12.

Ben Thomas Jr., vice chair of the board of directors, left, Wade Burkholder, development director, and Greg Hoover, director of operations and a host of 'The Morning Show,' were on the porch of WRGG on South Carlisle Street in Greencastle on June 11 for the community radio station's drive-by fund drive.

Broadcasting equipment was moved from the second floor onto the porch of the house at 113 S. Carlisle St. the station calls home.

On Friday, Greg Hoover, director of operations and one of the hosts of "The Morning Show," wore shorts and had to retrieve a plaid blanket from his car to wrap around his legs on an unseasonable cool and breezy late spring morning as Ben Thomas Jr., Greencastle's mayor and vice chair of the WRGG board of directors, and Burkholder joined him on the porch.

Rewind

Burkholder, Hoover and Thomas' radio days date back to Greencastle's WKSL, which was on the air for 30 years from 1967 to 1997.

Burkholder was 16 when he made his radio debut on Chambersburg's WCBG as Jerry Wade. At 20, he was one of the first voices on WKSL in April 1967.

Wade Burkholder is shown at the former WKSL around 1970.

Hoover recalled he was 15 when WKSL "was willing to take a chance on a squeaky-voiced kid."

Thomas was a silent partner to the station owner, his father Ben Thomas Sr.

Burkholder has had a lifelong career in radio, often in sales; Hoover did other radio gigs over the years during which his career in education ultimately saw him become superintendent of the Greencastle-Antrim School District; and Thomas moved into law enforcement and municipal management.

The trio's love for radio endured, and at WKSL reunions, they'd often say "we should start a radio station."

When the FCC opened up local licenses, they jumped on the opportunity. Thomas envisioned a room with a couple of chairs and a microphone.

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The support of the Paul K. and Anna E. Shockey Family Foundation was "key to getting us up and running in a big way" in terms of equipment, which was state-of-the-art from the beginning, Hoover said.

Volunteer engineers handle the technical end for the station, which broadcasts from a tower in Shady Grove.

Low power means it can be heard well on the radio for about an 8-mile radius based on conditions, and Burkholder said he can tune in from Chambersburg, depending on what vehicle he is in.

However, WRGG's diverse programming has the ears of listeners from across the country and around the world, thanks to livestreaming on the WRGG website, devices like Alexa and apps such as TuneIn.

On the airwaves

"I got a $100 donation from someone in Dallas who listens to me in the afternoon," said Burkholder, who is behind the mic from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. three days a week as a DJ.

Joann Williams enjoys the witty things Burkholder has to say. She's also a fan of "The Morning Show," with hosts Hoover, Mike Bock and Bill Gour and various guests. Williams was a morning guest two years ago, talking about the Old Home Week dog show.

"This is a local station, and I like hearing what's happening in Greencastle. They make it fun," said Williams, who pulled up in front of the station and made a donation from her vehicle.

"The Morning Show" is on from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., followed by music from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s until 6 p.m. Specialties — from "Blue Suede Shoes" to bluegrass to blues — follow until midnight, when "overnight music" kicks in.

Ray Peterson, left, made a donation to WRGG in the bucket held by Ben Thomas Jr.

Ray Peterson parked and walked up to drop his contribution in the bucket.

The station plays good music that Peterson said he enjoys with his wife, Ruby.

In addition to making a donation, Peterson also wanted to purchase tickets for WRGG's annual fundraising Elvis concert because Ruby is a fan. This year's show, with award-winning Elvis artist David King, will be held Saturday, Aug. 28, at Green Grove Gardens.

He went inside to see Burkholder's wife, Linda, about the tickets. She's the station's finance manager, and, since the couple owns the building, they're the janitors, too.

While Peterson was inside buying tickets, his granddaughter, Sarah Brant, dropped by with her 16-month old daughter, Andrea, to make her own donation.

Sarah Brant, a WRGG volunteer before daughter Andrea, 16 months, was born, stopped by to say hello to Wade Burkholder and others during the station's drive-by fund drive.

A volunteer prior to motherhood, Brant "played music from the library and talked a little too much about nothing." She tried to return after Andrea was born, but "I couldn't be on the air with her screaming."

The station raised $4,000 toward new equipment during the fund drive, but not all visitors came bearing cash.

Pat Myers, president of the VFW auxiliary, stopped by with two "Unwavering Support for Uncommon Heroes" certificates of appreciation: one because the station starts the day with the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance and the other for WRGG Hometown Heroes, in which Dave Kipp talks about people from Greencastle and Waynesboro.

WRGG was presented with 'Unwavering Support for Uncommon Heroes' certificates of appreciation from the VFW Auxiliary for starting each day with the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem, as well as Dave Kipp's Hometown Heroes segment.

"That says a whole lot for us," Hoover said. "These were ideas we thought were good and the community embraced them."

COVID and community

The station's motto is "We Are GA," and that's come in loud and clear throughout the pandemic.

"Not that we wanted COVD to happen, but it presented opportunities," Hoover said.

Greencastle-Antrim sports — football, basketball, baseball and softball — were broadcast on WRGG pre-COVID, but when the games went on without fans in the stands, people could still listen to them on the radio.

The station provided the music and words behind the Greencastle-Antrim High's 2020 Mask-erade Porch Prom and the graduation vehicle procession, as well as Relay For Life drive-through luminaria displays in both 2020 and 2021.

Greencastle's 2020 Memorial Day parade and ceremony were canceled due to COVID-19, but a virtual Memorial Day program was offered on WRGG, featuring, from left: Greg Hoover of WRGG; Dave Kelly of Frank L. Carbaugh Post 373 American Legion; Mike Blank and Patrick Higgins of Harry D. Zeigler VFW Post 6319 VFW; and WRGG's Ben Thomas Jr., mayor of Greencastle.

Memorial Day 2020 featured representatives of Frank L. Carbaugh American Legion Post 373 and Harry D. Zeigler VFW Post 6319 in the studio and — live via phone from the Veterans Memorial at Greencastle Borough Hall — a 21-gun salute.

After the in-person outdoor Veterans Day service was washed out by rain, speakers Jack Grace of Home Promise Heroes and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jonathan Breehl of Hagerstown could be found at 93.7 FM.

Listeners also could get into the holiday spirit when WRGG ran the G-AHS virtual winter concert on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Radio reflections

Five years in, Thomas is amazed by "how the community has supported this very small venture that turned into a very large venture ... It all came to fruition because of the great community support."

Both individuals and business have gotten behind WRGG, and many of the early underwriters are still on board, according to Thomas, who remains amazed by the station's technology.

Everyone is excited about the latest piece of equipment, a live remote broadcast unit, which should be on the road by Greencastle Sidewalk Days on Friday and Saturday, July 9 and 10.

Also behind WRGG are about 35 volunteers, from the voices heard on air to engineers and IT specialists.

"We call them, say we need them, and they're here," Hoover said. "There are lot of people doing different things and it all comes together.

"We're still growing and are more and more of a presence in the community," Hoover said. "We set out to become a community radio station, and I believe that's what we're doing ... And we're also having a good time doing it."