What started in a garage with a couple of people has grown into a 24/7 FM radio station on a variety of platforms.
Radio Tierra, founded by Darlo Salas, Aaron Glasgo and Norberto Maahs in 2004, has undergone multiple changes in its time. In the early days of the public radio station, programs were mostly live and, yes, broadcast out of Salas’ garage. The transmitter was located at the top of the Hood River hospital.
These days, the station is housed next to The Next Door on Tucker Road, with a range that spans from Parkdale to The Dalles (actually, closer to Biggs Junction) on the Oregon side of the Columbia, and from Carson to Trout Lake on the Washington side. Last year, Radio Tierra also went digital, extending that reach even further — worldwide, really.
“If you don’t have FM radio, you can link to the station via phone or laptop, or whatever (through the website),” said Radio Tierra Board President Juan Reyes. “That was very exciting.
“With time, we’ve progressed with technology and with volunteers, and more experiences.”
The station has recorded and broadcast local events including Independence Eve at the Bingen Theater — a July 3 variety show — as well as Columbia Center for the Arts’ holiday productions such as “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“It’s been great partnership,” Reyes said.
The station is currently partnering with the new Adult Center Theater and will broadcast its production of “Cell” in October.
The station “does a little bit of everything,” Reyes said, and indeed, it does — programs range from the aforementioned rebroadcasts of local theater productions to live music programs and from English lessons to community events. Monthly guests include Hood River County Sheriff Deputy Matt English and Hood River Mayor Paul Blackburn; Hood River Valley High School teacher Nan Noteboom hosts “Habla HRV” on a weekly basis, a bilingual talk show that focuses on what’s going on at the high school.
While the station has been around for years, there are still people who don’t know about its community radio status, or that there are a variety of English programs as well as Spanish and bilingual.
“We have a lot of Hispanic (shows), music and specific things happening in the community, PSAs, some prerecorded that are cycled through the day and week … but we also have ones like Josh (Price), who does a really funny show (in English) — it’s really entertaining. Everybody gets a chance,” said Reyes.
“We’re here to help, to spread the word and give people information. On the other end, we are volunteer run, so sometimes, when things don’t happen, it’s because we don’t have the manpower or the resources to do it. It’s a labor of love, as we always say.
“Donations are great — then we can pay for services, because the station keeps growing. But it’s hard for volunteers to do everything.”
More volunteers are needed, whether that’s in a behind the scenes role or something more up front, like going on air.
“We welcome people to join our team,” he said. “We can’t do this without
them … a big thank you to everybody.”
The station has become a family affair. Oldest daughter Stephanie has the program “Steph Tales,” and youngest daughter Allison has a program in the works. Reyes’ middle daughter, Alexa, 10, has her own program: “Maestra Alexa,” pre-recorded snippets that run throughout the day that teach English. All are volunteers, as is Reyes in his role as board president.
Alexa got her radio start in February 2015, after Reyes noticed her teaching Spanish to her sister.
“Alexa has always been very interested in learning Spanish, so when she was younger, I would quiz her on words and phrases and see if she could interpret them from English to Spanish,” said Reyes. “After a while, she started doing the same with her little sister, Allison.”
Reyes had just joined Radio Tierra and was learning how to record and edit PSAs, and decided to record Alexa interpreting some words and phrases from Spanish to English in a short clip. He shared it with former program director Leti Valle, who aired it.
“It was a hit,” said Reyes, “so we decided to do one every week, and she’s been doing that ever since. We hear comments from parents all the time that most of their children don’t like to listen to Spanish language shows, but for some reason, when they hear her come on, they love listening to it and trying to guess what the translation will be, and are learning Spanish in the process. So it works both ways, I guess.”
Radio Tierra can be heard at 95.1 FM in Hood River, 95.9 FM in Stevenson, 96.7 FM in Carson, 107.1 FM in Parkdale, and 107.7 FM in The Dalles.
Radio Tierra programs also stream over the Internet at www.radiotierra.org