SKOWHEGAN — A fledgling nonprofit FM radio station in Skowhegan that soon will operate in the former Somerset County Jail is hoping to get bailed out on some of its bills by community members.

Community station Hooskow Radio, 98.1 FM WXNZ, is hosting a fundraiser on Valentine’s Day that will include an open mic event for anyone in the community to perform music, poetry, comedy or anything else, according to station staff Annie Stillwater Gray and Andy Wendell, of Solon.

They hope to use the money to get caught up on some construction bills and to pay dues to three performing rights organizations required for the station to operate.

The event is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at The Somerset Abbey at 98 Main St. in Madison. There also will be a raffle, and food will be available.

The station, run by the Wesserunsett Arts Council, is called Hooskow Radio — a play on the slang term for jail, “hoosegow” — because it soon will be broadcasting from the converted former Somerset County Jail in downtown Skowhegan.

Studios are being finished in three jail cells and a day room at the former jail, which is also home to the Somerset Grist Mill and other businesses, including The Pickup Cafe, a community supported agriculture program and the Skowhegan Farmers’ Market in the summer.

The space is almost ready and the group hopes to go live from inside the jail sometime this summer. Grist Mill co-owner and founder Amber Lambke, of Skowhegan, is offering the space free to the arts council in exchange for on-air promotional considerations.

Anyone can sign up to perform at Sunday’s event, and performances can include music, poetry, comedy or anything else. There also will be a live performance by Gray’s quirky Country & Western band, Merry-Go-Roundup. The suggested donation is $5.

“The open mic gives anyone in the community a chance to perform,” Gray and Wendell said in an email. “The entertainment is a collective ‘us,’ as in listeners and supporters of Skowhegan’s premier community radio station.”

Each performer will be limited to three songs or poems or, depending on the act, will be limited by time.

The idea for a community radio station with diverse programming was hatched in 2014 as a project of the nonprofit Wesserunsett Arts Council.

Money is needed primarily for required fees to play recorded music by artists represented by the three performing rights groups that protect its members’ musical copyrights — The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Broadcast Music Inc.; and the Society of European Stage Authors and Composers.

WXNZ is a low-power broadcast station, as determined by its Federal Communications Commission license. Broadcasts are transmitted from a tower on Bigelow Hill in Skowhegan.

It may be low-power, Gray said, but the strains of blues, jazz, rock, folk, gospel, hip-hop, country and world music can be heard all the way to Solon, Canaan, Madison and Norridgewock — up to 12 miles away.

“We have our license and are totally stoked to make 2016 a great year for the greater Skowhegan area,” Gray said on the station’s Facebook page. “Our goal in 2016 is to connect with the community — artists, musicians, businesses, and listeners. Low-power to the people.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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