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Happy 50th Birthday, KZZJ!

By Staff | Aug 12, 2011

Rugby’s radio station is celebrating 50 years in business in August with hot dogs and birthday cake on Friday, August 26 from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Although the original radio station carried the call letters KGCA for Geographical Center of (North) America, when it opened in 1961, today it is called KZZJ.

The radio station has an interesting history in that it was incorporated by three UND alumni, Ray Friedrich, Rugby, Oscar Halvorson, Sydney, Montana and Olaf Falkvold, Williston. These three men with various levels of radio experience met with Rugby’s Economic Development Corporation Board in 1959 with a proposal to run a radio station in Rugby. To raise start up funds, Rugby Broadcasters Inc. would offer 200 shares of preferred stock at $100 per share with a par value of $100/each to North Dakota residents only.

During the latter part of 1957, the group applied for a construction permit from the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, DC. The permit was finally granted in July of 1960. Land on which to construct the radio station was purchased from Kermit and Fern Blessum, Rugby, In 1961, construction was completed and the radio station was officially on the air on August 26.

The station was projected to be “On Air” on August 14. However, according to the Tribune dated August 31, 1961 it was described in a column by Frank Hornstein, “Good morning, this is KGCA, Rugby, North Dakota… with these words manager George Gaustad on Saturday, August 26 at precisely 8:45 a.m. made a bit of history in these parts. From here on it is up to the owners and managers of KGCA. We extend congratulations and felicitations at the occasion of its birth. And we wish them a long and happy life.”

The station back then operated with 250 watts both night and day, 16 hours a day, seven days a week. The radio station promised to try to give good coverage of the area, local news, sporting events, and a good, balanced music format, according to its manager George Gaustad.

In 1985 Del Nygard bought the radio station from Ray Friedrich. Nygard bought out the shareholders and changed the programming and call sign to KZZJ for a change, and at that time the power was increased to 1,000 watts. Dick Ivers was hired as manager.

In 1993 the current 130 sq. ft. broadcast facility and studios were constructed adjacent to the old studio. The current 180′ tower was constructed in January of 2003, along with a new transmitter and computerized broadcast equipment in the studio and production room. Lila Harstad was hired as the manager in November, 1999.

Harstad bought the radio station in December, 2002 from Del Nygard, Grafton, making her the only sole female owner of a radio station in North Dakota.

“I feel my involvement in the community and helping businesses and organizations be successful has been the highlight of my career at KZZJ,” said Harstad.

Currently, KZZJ broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week and streams on the internet. Her current staff includes: DJ Anderson, DeeDee Bischoff, Jan Coca Bruce Allan, David “White Thunder” Trottier, Gerald Healy, and Cheryl Holm.

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