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Calistoga man brings community radio to town

Dennis DeVilbiss has launched an online radio station, known as Radio Calistoga, and hopes to someday take it live over the airwaves.
Sean Scully/The Weekly Calistogan

September 13, 2012 12:00 am  •  Sean Scully ...more


Wildcats game commentary airing on new Internet radio station

Calistoga resident Dennis DeVilbiss broadcasts Friday night’s Calistoga football game.
Vince D’Adamo photo

September 13, 2012 12:00 am  •  Vince D’Adamo ...more
Radio Calistoga goes live on air
December 06, 2012 12:00 am  •  Sean Scully

Just two months after launching his bid to establish Calistoga’s first radio station, Dennis DeVilbiss has secured the key components: an actual radio frequency and transmitter.
“This is real live, real time, and really here,” DeVilbiss said this week, days after going live on AM 1610.
The antenna itself, mounted on DeVilbiss’ home, is a relatively inexpensive model that does not require a regular radio license from the Federal Communications Commission. It broadcasts on around one-tenth of a watt of power; large commercial radio stations might broadcast on 50,000 or even 100,000 watts.
As a result, the range is limited, covering roughly the city limits.
“I’ve got a little bit of a dead spot out toward Home Plate [Café],” he said, “but that is a matter of transmitter placement.”
Programming is fairly limited too, although the station is on the air around the clock. DeVilbiss hosts a live show at noon every day, running about two hours. So far he has interviewed a variety of locals, including Victoria Li, executive director of the Calistoga Family Center, and resident Jess Green, recalling the great freeze of 1990 that disrupted water and other supplies in some homes, part of DeVilbiss’ mission to preach the value of preparation for disaster.
He said he doesn’t want to seem like a doomsayer, “but there are going to be interruptions in service; they are inevitable,” he said, noting that Napa Valley residents live in an area prone to earthquakes, fires, droughts and major storms. “Simply taking responsibility for yourself and your family will help you be more comfortable in the event of an outage like that.”
In that spirit, he has a large back-up battery in his home that would allow the station to stay on the air at least 12 hours in the event of an emergency.
The rest of the day, DeVilbiss broadcasts music, though he can go live anytime or add programs if he finds people to sponsor them.
DeVilbiss believes this is the first-ever regular radio station based in Calistoga. The Air Force had a navigational beacon at the Gliderport in the 1950s, he said, but that is the only evidence he can find of a Calistoga-based transmitter.
DeVilbiss started Radio Calistoga in September, acting on an idea he had been considering for several years.
At first, he broadcast only online, hosting talk shows and live coverage of special events, such as Calistoga High School football games, City Council meetings, and the Nov. 6 election night.
Early on, the idea of a live transmitter seemed far off, but an unnamed benefactor stepped up to fund the small broadcast setup, he said.
And that points toward one key element of a radio station DeVilbiss has yet to secure: a regular supply of money. Aside from a few contributions, he and business partner Danniel Kientz have paid for the equipment, time, and online platform themselves.
The future of the online operation, at
RadioCalistoga.com, is in some doubt simply because he no longer has the money to pay for the service to allow him to stream up to three hours live. He may have to step back to the free 15-minute-only version.
DeVilbiss said he welcomes contributions or sponsorships, and would be interested in anyone who can supply studio space or a better spot for the transmitter. He can be reached at
dennis@radiocalistoga.com or 341-6250, which also happens to be the station’s call-in line during the live broadcasts.
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