KBUT at age 30 – A three part series on the valley’s radio station

Part two: it’s a family affair

By Richard Kadzis

Bob and daughter Julia Brazell demonstrate the growth and evolution of KBUT, whose pioneers also hale from the Petito family. While control and governance of the station has always been widely shared across the board of directors and the 9,000 member-listeners the two families devoted a lot of time and energy to getting and keeping the station on the airwaves.

Julia made a career move to work for large

nonprofits based in Denver, and then returned to Crested Butte with much stronger knowledge experience to take over as KBUT membership director before being selected by the board to succeed Eileen Hughes as general manager on June 1. Hughes built the station to its current funding level and is the host of a weekly KBUT program, “The Dirt Farmer’s Revenge.” She is also a past news director of the station.

In a similar way, Jackson Petito, a former teenage KBUT DJ, left the area for college and law school, only to return recently as an attorney and as KBUT’s new program and operations director.

Like Julia’s dad Bob, Jackson’s mom Lynda Petito Jackson was one of the first DJs to put KBUT on air, and like Bob, remains in the air chair today with her popular Saturday morning “Finer Things” program.

“I’ve been with KBUT for a long time, and I feel that I’m still appreciated as I get older,” Lynda Jackson shares. “My on-air work is what keeps me going today. I was more connected when I worked as the town clerk, and now those people who listen to me on the radio still keep me plugged into what’s happening.”

KBUT has become a nucleus for Crested Butte and the Gunnison Valley, which has become known for its ecology of creativity. The station is an essential part of the mix, playing a part in the recent designation of Crested Butte as one of six new Creative Districts in the state of Colorado.

“We are intrinsic to Crested Butte’s local culture,” says Bonnie Chlipala, Jackson’s aunt, one of KBUT’s first general managers and long-time host of the program “The Everyday Housewife.”

Or, as the Crested Butte News editorialized in December 2014, KBUT “reflects a piece of this valley, whether it is an avalanche report or a notice about lost pets…it mirrors the place it lives.”

One dimension that gives KBUT an edge is Crested Butte’s personality, Lynda Jackson thinks. “There are plenty of characters around town to give the radio station its own, quirky character. Crested Butte encourages people to be themselves, and so does KBUT.”

The small-town folksiness found on KBUT extends to different kinds of personal information services such as its Ride Board, matching drivers and riders, and the Pet Patrol, reuniting mainly lost dogs and cats with their masters.

Denver’s Channel 9 News, Colorado’s top-ranked commercial TV news operation, recently visited KBUT to produce a prime-time feature about the KBUT Lost and Found report, which has reunited countless lost items—some trite, many serious—to their rightful owners.

As the News 9 report illustrated, “KBUT is a creative and lifestyle expression of Crested Butte extending well beyond the Gunnison Valley with many outside loyal listeners, with the curious observer-documentarian often added to the mix,” Bob Brazell, one of the original KBUT DJs, asserts.

The community is sewn into the station through its DJs, adds Jackson Petito. “Our volunteer DJs earn livings in a variety of ways that keep the Gunnison Valley’s economy and culture vibrant. We have DJ architects, attorneys, actors, artists, bartenders, consultants, musicians, journalists, chefs, photographers, event planners, writers, sculptors…even DJs with their own DJ companies.”

“Our DJs all bring their own personalities, musical tastes, hearts and souls to the air waves,” Eileen Hughes summarizes.

“As long as the DJ has passion, that’s what counts,” agrees Lynda Jackson. “DJs will play what they want, as long as the station gets three or four listeners offering constructive feedback, we are OK. That’s what gives this station its diversity, which can be found across different age groups, lifestyles, places of origin, cultural interests and other variables. And then, of course, we always tell listeners to take a chance and listen to something new or different.”

As the CB News also described, “…it is all part of the unique charm…that helps make KBUT one of the most unique radio stations in the state, if not the country.”

(Next week we look at how one of the town’s smallest nonprofits helps all the nonprofits.)

About the Author: Story author Richard Kadzis is a former New England correspondent for NPR’s All Things Considered based at WBUR-FM in Boston and a cofounder of WCNI-FM, a community radio station on the campus of Connecticut College. He is also a commentator for NPR member station KRWG-FM at New Mexico State University. Kadzis is also a regular DJ at KBUT-FM, where he is known as the Buzzman. 871/

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