Hunters Bay Radio is turning seven-years-old this week and it’s truly proven to be the “little radio station that could,” to borrow from a previous story written by this author years ago.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been only seven years. After all, HBR is woven into the fabric of the community in Huntsville and Muskoka as whole.
Operating mostly out of its studio on Main Street West in Huntsville, HBR has expanded to Bracebridge and Gravenhurst as well.
It’s a long way to go from being an online station operating out of a tiny basement studio seven years ago.
“We won best use of technology award from the Muskoka Community Network for this programming,” says station manager Jeff Carter, who has been part of HBR since day one.
In 2010, the incomparable Grant Nickalls took over as morning man and was joined by the late great James Carroll. Nickalls was morning man until 2013, the same year HBR received its community radio license and began preparing to hit the radio airwaves on 88.7 FM.
In May 2014 HBR launched on the air. Over the years, those in and outside of the community have taken notice. HBR was featured on CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes in 2015, as well as in a column by Roy MacGregor in the Globe and Mail.
While Kareen Burns takes the honour as the station’s first community volunteer, there are now 55 volunteers who help make HBR a fun, local station to tune into.
It would be remiss not to mention the tremendous support by Brian Samuell over the years.
A lot of changes have taken place this last year, with Carroll passing to national media coverage (including a feature on page 3 of the National Post), Nickalls returning to the air, and Sarah Coombs and Jake Kriger joining the morning/afternoon team.
“Up next for HBR is a new Gravenhurst studio opening in October at Sawdust City and moving to our new location in Bracebridge at the Muskoka foundry in Bracebridge as soon as construction is finished,” says Carter.
Adds Nickalls: “Going from a 12-by-12 room in the basement to three studios for community radio is awesome.”
Over the years, Hunters Bay Radio’s dedication to promoting local talent has seen them host live acts in the studio, do countless interviews with artists from a variety of mediums and stay true to being a community radio station.
Musicians, writers, painters and more have all had the opportunity to be featured on HBR’s flagship Talent on the Bay program as well as the many other volunteer-run shows airing on 88.7 FM.
People listening to HBR became familiar with the sounds of Juan Barbosa, Paul Lagendyk, Jeff “Stampy” Stamp and many, many more. One can even purchase CDs of several Huntsville and Muskoka-based artists right in the HBR studio.
As well, HBR has helped many wonderful and colourful personalities and the community become better acquainted.
As hosts or guests of the many programs, individuals such as Jamie Oppenheimer, Gerry Lantaigne, Karen Cassian, Ken Cole, Arlene Payne, Barry “Bazza” Hayward, Jesse Cole, Michelle Ainsworth, Helena Renwick and Kelly Haywood were able to share a piece of who they are through music and talk shows.
Plus, there’s this fellow who likes to giggle a lot and is referred to by Nickalls as “the man with cute in his name.”
Even MP Tony Clement has been a guest performer and host on Hunters Bay Radio.
And these are just a small portion of the many past, present and future people who have, are and will be making HBR a great radio station.
“It’s amazing to be a part of supporting local artists and playing their music,” says Nickalls. “Truly celebrating the community with great talk shows. Keeping news truly local. It’s a joy to go to work each day.”
It’s amazing to think that only seven years ago Hunters Bay Radio was nothing more than the idea of a few good people.
From its humble origins to three studios in Muskoka’s largest communities, the team at Hunters Bay Radio is proving the sky’s the limit when one has the ambition and the passion to follow one’s dreams.
Happy Birthday HBR!