Joliet, Ill. – This past summer, the radio antenna tower for WCSF 88.7 FM, the University of St. Francis’ (USF) radio station, was blown off its mounts atop Tower Hall on the main USF campus in Joliet during a strong thunderstorm. This challenged the station to transition its broadcast to a temporary, but less effective, tower. While the normal range for the radio station reaches as far as Mokena, Morris, Wilmington and Bolingbrook, the temporary signal reached only one or two miles. What was thought to be a short-term challenge lasted much longer than initially anticipated and impacted the reach of the largely popular annual Spirit of Christmas programming, serving as yet another reminder that 2020 was a year in which anything can and will happen.
Despite the challenge, WCSF 88.7 FM persevered. Through the persistence of WCSF station manager Anthony Musiala and Spirit of Christmas producer Don Burke (with the support of USF Administration), a new tower and antenna were scheduled for fabrication and installation, but not before the start of Spirit of Christmas programming on Thanksgiving Day. Understandably, listeners were concerned when they realized that couldn’t hear Burke’s familiar voice, programs like “Hardrock, Coco and Joe” and “The Cinnamon Bear”, and the diverse variety of holiday songs for which the Spirit of Christmas is known.
On the Spirit of Christmas Facebook page (facebook.com/WCSF887), one listener posted, “I can’t wait. I am listening to a static radio music now. But I love it so much that I don’t care.”
This listener wasn’t alone, either. Dozens of other listeners also called, posted comments and emailed stating that they were missing their favorite Christmas programming.
In the week leading up to Christmas, the installation of the new tower and antenna finally began. The antenna mounts were bolted atop Tower Hall and, in the week after Christmas, the new antenna elements and cabling were hoisted up, secured and connected. While not quite a Christmas miracle, WCSF 88.7 FM was finally broadcasting at full power again before the end of the calendar year.
In an effort to provide even just a small portion of the Spirit of Christmas programming listeners had missed, Burke and Musiala extended Spirit of Christmas for an additional 48 hours, with programming scheduled to conclude on Monday, January 4.
The extension included a “Cinnamon Bear” marathon, which immediately received a warm reception. On the Spirit of Christmas Facebook page, one listener posted, “My children always loved The Cinnamon Bear! I was sad that we missed a lot of it this year, so this is a real treat. Thank you!”
One caller left a voice message that effectively summed up the feelings of many listeners. The caller stated, “I simply want to thank you for the beautiful Christmas music. It brought such joy into my life. I don’t have a home computer so I wasn’t able to listen to it without it being on the radio. So to go a whole month without it, I have to tell you, it was really tough. I’ve been listening to the program for the last 20 years. It was one of my most treasured traditions. It was actually kind of painful, I know it sounds silly but it was. I’ve listened to it almost nonstop for the last 4 days. Thank you, thank you, thank you. God bless you for all that you do. You and your program are a true blessing. I wish you an extraordinary New Year and blessings to all of you. Thank you.”
The moral of the story is that we should not take things for granted. Special thanks are extended to Don Burke for another outstanding season of Spirit of Christmas programming, even under the most trying of circumstances.
The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 51,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.
University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.
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