by Liz Pleasant
Rainier Valley’s first-ever Roots and Music Festival will be held this Saturday, August 29. Located at the Rainier Valley Cultural Theater in Columbia City, the festival features a great lineup of both nationally recognized and up-and-coming musicians.
Festival attendees will get to see America’s Got Talent Semi-Finalists The AriAm Sisters and The Voice’s Mycle Wastman. Among the festival’s other performers is local jazz musician George Griffin, who has opened for the likes of John Coltrane and Miles Davis. Giffin, 79, is sure to put on great act with his senior citizen drumline.
Beyond the performers, the festival will include two DJs, a silent auction, drinks, dinner, and dessert. There will also be activities for the whole family, including an activity where kids can create their own radio program to hear what their voices sound like on the air.
Amplifying the community’s voice is what the Roots and Music Festival is all about. All the proceeds for Saturday’s event will go to KVRU 105.7 FM Rainier Valley Radio. KVRU is Rainer Valley’s first low power FM radio station. Licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a low power FM station is a way for a community to create noncommercial broadcasting for their neighborhood (in this case about a 3.5-mile radius of Columbia City).
The station, a brainchild of many people including Tony Benton, has been two years in the making. If you grew up in Seattle, you might remember Benton from his 20-year stint as the host of StreetBeat on KUBE 93 FM.
There is, Benton explains, quite a bit that goes into building a community radio station from the ground up. You’ve got to apply for the license and permits with the FCC. You’ve got to build a team of staff and volunteers. You’ve got to do outreach to figure out what the community actually wants and needs.
Benton says the outreach step has been the hardest. South Seattle’s diversity is what makes the area great, but it also makes it challenging to identify the resident’s needs. Just look out the window, says Benton pointing out of a coffee shop in Columbia City, and you’ll see people of all different ages, ethnicities, and socio-economic statuses.
“We can’t reach all of them with just one message,” he explains. “So we will try to reach them with multiple messages.” The idea is that all of those messages will have an over-arching theme of sustaining a strong, healthy, and vibrant local community.
Rainer Valley Radio, set to launch the beginning of 2016, will include music, talk radio, and—most importantly to Benton—news. “First and foremost we want to be a responsible news organization,” he says. “A radio station that supports the community should take the community’s interest at heart.”
This looks different for every community Benton says, and the Rainier Valley Radio team is still trying to figure out exactly what that will look like for their neighborhood. But they’re off to a good start. What better way to nail down what your community needs then by throwing them a party and asking them yourself?
The Rainier Valley Roots and Music Festival takes place Saturday, August 29th at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center at 6:30pm. You can purchase tickets here.