Reprinted with permission from the Door County Advocate.
By Warren Blum
As close to 2,000 runners crossed the finish line at the Door County Half Marathon two years ago, Mike Mesic read their names, hometowns and times over the public address system — all of them.
“The chip (the microchip carried by each participant) keeps track of that information, and we have it as soon as they cross the finish line,” said Mesic, co-owner of WLGE-FM, more familiarly known as 106.9 The Lodge.
When the tableau is repeated today at Peninsula State Park, The Lodge will be there again with a series of live remote broadcasts, but Mesic plans to turn the announcements for individual runners over to other volunteers.
“That’s a lot of names,” he said with a laugh. “I could hardly talk when it was over.”
The Lodge is again one of the major sponsors of the race, reflecting the Mesics’ desire that they serve the community with their radio station, which signed on for the first time on April 26, 2008, and recently celebrated its third anniversary.
The Mesics are an increasingly rare commodity in this age of corporate consolidation in the media — “mom and pop” owners who started an independent radio station devoted to serving its community, including programming the music selection at the local level.
Mike, a veteran of the radio industry in Milwaukee and other cities, based the station’s unique sound on outlets in Minneapolis and Chicago that provide a mix unique to Wisconsin.
“It’s a singer-songwriter based format spanning the 1970s to now,” he said. “The industry calls it AAA, adult album alternative, but I don’t think that describes it very well.”
“If you don’t understand, just listen for a while, you’ll get it,” Carrie said.
“World-Class Rock for a World-Class County” is the musical tagline, and Mike spends a long time each day working on the music log to ensure that the songs flow together. He even changes the songs themselves to fit the season — you’re more likely to hear Bob Marley or Jimmy Buffett on a sunny summer day than during a snowstorm, for example.
From humble beginnings the Mesics have brought together a staff of 12 that includes advertising representatives and announcers. The on-air staff includes Mike from 6 a.m. to noon, Chris “The Freezer” Friese from noon to 6 p.m. followed by Amy Foxx to midnight.
Listeners have responded to the local effort and the eclectic sound.
“I’ve never seen anything like the passion people have for our station,” he said.
While Mike handles the on-air sound as program and operations manager, Carrie takes care of the business end and is the more visible face of The Lodge, active in local service organizations.
Opening a studio and office in downtown Sturgeon Bay in December has helped raise awareness of The Lodge, which is licensed to Baileys Harbor and has its main office and studio at 10311 Water St. in Ephraim.
The facility at 211 N. Third Ave. provides office space for the station’s marketing consultants and a studio that mirrors the capabilities of the Ephraim site.
“We were surprised at how some people just considered us a Northern Door Radio station,” Carrie said. The 6,000-watt signal reaches into Kewaunee County and across the bay to Oconto, Marinette and Menominee (Mich.) counties.
And where that signal can’t reach, Internet technology can: web streaming at www.fm1069thelodge.com and a new smartphone app allow listeners to carry The Lodge far beyond the county line.
“As long as I have cell service, I can get in the car and listen all the way to my mom’s in Phoenix,” Mike said. “The way we promote it is, ‘Whenever you need a little piece of Door County …'”