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57-year-old KRVM parties for longevity.

Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard

Turning 57 might not inspire most people to have a big celebration, but KRVM has been very much in the party mode the last couple of years.

Especially when gifts are involved.

On Saturday, the eclectic Eugene School District-owned radio station will throw a birthday bash at Cozmic Pizza beginning at 7 p.m., featuring swing dancers, party music, DJ's and station alumni.

"And people are welcome to bring us birthday presents, though we're not charging ticket prices," KRVM development director Bobbie Cirel said. "We'll have a box out."

Less than two years ago, the station was fighting for its very survival - "lying bleeding in the road," as Cirel put it.

But a generous community and some lucky breaks have boosted spirits and the odds for long-term survival at KRVM, station manager Carl Sundberg said.

"We raised $45,000 more last year than we needed to operate," said Sundberg, who has been at the station 11 years and is only its third station manager since its debut in December of 1947. "With our last fund-raiser (an on-air membership drive), we did $56,000. That's a sizeable chunk of change."

KRVM (frequency 91.9 FM) is one of the largest FM networks in the Pacific Northwest, Sundberg said, with stations in Florence, Reedsport and Oakridge.

More than 100 students each year, including some in middle and elementary school, get a chance at airtime or behind the scenes.

The station plays "adult album alternative" on weekdays, but offers an unparalleled variety on weekends and after hours: blues, Celtic, funk, the Grateful Dead, Latino, soul, world music and much more, with local volunteer hosts.

An AM station, frequency 1280, is leased to Jefferson Public Radio, although it also covers Eugene School Board meetings.

Listeners demonstrated their devotion to KRVM in the spring of 2003, when the school district eliminated from the budget its $100,000 annual allocation to the station - most of that covering Sundberg's salary and benefits.

After pleas to the school board didn't work, fans opened up their pocketbooks, donating close to $50,000 over the course of five days.

Weaned from the district, the station reinvented itself, cutting three of five-and-a-half positions and, with the help of a new fund-raising group, launching an aggressive campaign to become - and remain - self-sustainable.

Benefit concerts over the last year-and-a-half have raised thousands of dollars, and the station has boosted its underwriting support.

The lucky break came when the station learned it would still receive its full annual grant - now about $80,000 - from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

A condition of the grant was that the station have five full-time employees, but CPB has allowed a temporary waiver to that rule, Cirel said.

Sundberg said the station may be able to fill those empty positions if things fall into place, as he hopes. Another development director, he noted, could well generate enough income to pay for the position and then some.

"The concept is not only just to have some more income for the station, but to have some more eating, drinking, thinking human bodies around," he said, noting how thinly stretched his small crew is.

Cirel sounded optimistic, but cautious about KRVM's chances. The station is counting on listeners who came through in the hour of need to be there for the long haul, she said.

"To get ahead we really need to raise more money than we've ever raised," she said. "We're intact, but we're always struggling."

KRVM BIRTHDAY PARTY

KRVM took to the air 57 years ago Dec. 6. The station is throwing a party to celebrate.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Cozmic Pizza, 199 W. Eighth Ave.

What: The ELLA swing dancers will perform to music from the KRVM show "Swing Shift," beginning at 7:30 p.m. Program hosts and alumni will also be on hand.

Cost: No charge, but donations are encouraged.
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Title Annotation:Schools; Saturday's celebration features dancers, music and plenty of hope for listeners' gifts
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 10, 2004
Words:651
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