“WDUX gets the word out” is the motto around the WDUX station, which has been nestled in the woods of Waupaca since it started broadcasting in 1956. That continues to be the mantra of station manager JoLene Nollenberg and her staff of eight full-time employees and “many more part-timers.”
Nollenberg, who started at the station in 2013 in sales, became the station manager two years ago. The Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce recently honored her with its RUBY Award, which recognizes the upward, bright and young in the business community.
Nollenberg talks about the family-owned station with much pride and enthusiasm, just as she does her volunteer work with nonprofit and business organizations in and around Waupaca.
“I tell people volunteering is my hobby. It’s true! I find joy in helping others. I believe community involvement is important. I think it is ‘good business’ to be seen in the community giving back.
I think networking is one of the best ways to connect with people. I feel honored to be able to participate in and learn about all the happenings at the Chamber. I enjoy welcoming new business owners at business welcomes and ribbon cuttings. …”
WDUX is home to AM (800) and FM (92.7) stations that focus primarily on the local community and its events. The coverage area extends into Stevens Point on the west, New London and parts of Outagamie County on the east, to Clintonville on the north and Wautoma and parts of Winnebago County on the south.
The station began as a sister station to WDUZ in Green Bay at 800 kilocycles and with 500 watts of power. The owner was Dorothy Laird of Green Bay, wife of Ben Laird, president of the Green Bay Broadcasting Co. WDUX also operated a short-lived station out of New London. The stations operated as part of the Laird group. WDUX moved to its Tower Road site in 1962.
The announcement of the 1956 opening included: “The station will not be affiliated with a network. It plans to broadcast the (Milwaukee) Braves baseball games. It will sign on at 5:30 a.m. each morning and will sign off at sunset daily.” It’s first broadcast began at 7 a.m. Sunday, April 28, 1956.
The New London station was located above Pichelmeyer’s Drug Store. It had two turntables that took about five revolutions to get up to speed. There were two reel-to-reel recorders for commercials, one was an old Wollensack on a metal folding chair and both had to be cued up manually, with a different 5-inch reel for each commercial, according to a history of the stations written by Nollenberg to commemorate the 60th anniversary.
Today, the station is owned by Ben and Dorothy's four children, though only Bill maintains a hands-on relationship and visits the Waupaca station weekly. It remains committed to local events, news and sports.
The programming includes several popular shows, such as the Swap Shop on AM 800. Listeners email, fax or drop-off information on items they want to sell or trade, Nollenberg said. This might include swapping a snowmobile trailer for a boat trailer, for example, or they might have corn or other produce to sell. It is a half hour show, Monday through Friday. On Wednesdays, it features live call-ins.
The FM station has three half-hour news shows daily during the week and two on Saturdays. They feature local and national news and sports and local obituaries. “It is uncommon to have obituaries on the radio, but people love it,” she said. On Sundays, live church serves are aired on both the AM and FM stations.
When it comes to sports, games of the Green Bay Packers, Milwaukee Brewers, Wisconsin Badgers, Milwaukee Bucks, other NFL teams and high school sports, including football, basketball, hockey, baseball and softball are broadcast. The local sports teams include Waupaca, Iola-Scandinavia, Rosholt, New London, Clintonville, Amherst, Weyauwega-Fremont, Manawa, Almond-Brancroft, Wild Rose and TriCounty. The station also airs portions of local high school Christmas concerts — both band and choral.
Rick Winters’ Morning Show also is popular. It airs from 5 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. One of its features is the Thursday morning The Breakfast Show where Winters interviews with eight to 10 local organizations that get approximately five minutes to talk about what is going on with them. On Thursdays it meets at the Waupaca Woods Restaurant, which supplies beverages and samples of the dessert of the week. “It is a nice atmosphere and it is good for the community, the restaurant and the radio station,” Nollenberg said.
Each spring, the station hosts the WDUX Home Show at the Waupaca Rec Center.
The station also does live remotes from various events, most recently the Strawberry Fest. Station employees can be found at the annual car show, the Waupaca County Fair and the Scandinavia Corn Roast. A calendar of local events can be found on the station’s website and are mentioned on air at no cost.
“We want to make sure we help people spread the word about the local community,” Nollenberg said. For this reason, the station also does a lot of public service announcements free for nonprofits, which also get a discount when they buy airtime.
“Personally, I am very volunteer minded,” she said. “I want to help out all those organizations I’m involved with.” Her list of volunteer activities is long. It includes the Waupaca, Weyauwega and Fremont chambers of commerce in various capacities; the Shepherd of the Lakes Church, the Weyauwega School’s PTA and RISE, a network of active professionals.
Nollenberg came to broadcasting after having worked for her father, who owned a local manufacturing plant. She did a lot of sales, she said, then took time off to have babies. She and her husband, Tyler, have two daughters, ages 7 and 10. When she decided to re-enter the workforce, she wanted to stay in the area where she grew up. She responded to an advertisement for a sales job at WDUX, and was promoted to station manager two years ago.
“I have worked really hard to get to where I am today,” she wrote at the time of her RUBY Award. “In under five years, I went from radio newcomer to WDUX station manager. This involved a lot of extra work on my behalf and a lot of help from those who came before me. I work hard and put in the time and energy it takes to get the job done. I strive to make our community a better place. This is my attitude for everything I do. The sky (and quite literally the airwaves) is the limit.”