BROKEN BOW—KCNI radio has been Keeping Central Nebraska Informed for the last 70 years and to celebrate, radio station staff and approximately 200 community members gathered at the Broken Bow Country Club on Thursday night. The anniversary festivities consisted of pulled pork sandwiches, cake, pure country music, and special giveaways such as 70th anniversary t-shirts and Sport Sync radios.
A big congratulations goes out to loyal listener Linda Kastens who was the recipient of a $1,280 cash prize and to Pat Jackson who received the river trip. Registrations were taken during the last few weeks on KCNI, as well as during the event, and recipients were required to be present to win.
Special guests on Thursday night included former owners Liane and Jerry Griffith. Liane is the daughter of Georgia Crawford and she thanked the crowd for continuing to support one of the few remaining locally owned radio stations.
KCNI went on the air at 1490 AM on September 28, 1949 at 250 watts of power under the ownership of Bud and Georgia Crawford. It was their dream to bring radio to the area and staff has worked to continue that dream ever since.
On April 3, 1952 the radio station power increased to 1,000 watts and KCNI went to 1280 AM where it is today, in addition to 96.3 FM, kcni1280.com, and the KCNI mobile app.
After Bud Crawfords’s passing in 1954, Georgia took over as manager making her the only woman owner and manager of a radio or television station in Nebraska at the time.
A fire gutted the original KCNI building on December 8, 1969. Damage was estimated at a near total loss but KCNI went back on the air about a week later operating out of a four-room trailer house.
The Broken Bow High School concord program, eventually named “KBOW,” went on the air September 23, 1972. In August of that same year, Cheryl Smith was hired as a salesperson and 14 years later she became the fourth manager of the station.
KCNI’s sister station KBBN FM went on the air on June 20, 1982.
KCNI has seen some transitions through the years including a switch from adult contemporary music to country music on February 2, 1987. The only other format change happened recently in 2017 as KCNI Pure Country took form.
The Get Up and Go Breakfast Show made its debut in 1987 and the Partyline Show made a move from two o’clock in the afternoon to mornings at 10:30 where it has been ever since.
Dave Birnie, who started as a news director in the late 1970s, became the fifth manager on February 1, 1990. Dave and Joan Birnie purchased KCNI/KBBN September 8, 2009 from Liane and Jerry Griffith who were majority stockholders since the time of Georgia Crawford’s passing.
Thank you to our listeners for allowing us to be part of the community for 70 years!