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WFIT Celebrates 40 Years on the Space Coast

Music Festival on April 18 to Mark Anniversary

MELBOURNE, FLA. — On April 4, 1975, not quite 20 years after Florida Institute of Technology was founded in Melbourne, WFIT 91.5 FM went live.

Now 40 years old and found at 89.5 FM, WFIT is one of the longest running non-commercial and volunteer supported radio stations in the country. The station will mark its birthday with a music festival from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at the Florida Tech Panthereum and outside the station on the Crawford Green. The event will feature local bands, retail, food and beverage vendors and several non-profit groups.  The celebration is being held in honor of and in thanks to the community that has supported the station for 40 years.

“It’s been an amazing adventure,” said WFIT Program Director Todd Kennedy.

In 1975, 10 watts of power carried the signal across campus but not much beyond. The student-run station was launched in the basement of Roberts Hall and broadcast an eclectic mix of alternative music from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Five years later, the radio station increased its power to a wider-reaching 3,000 watts and switched to its current frequency of 89.5 FM. For the next 15 years, WFIT maintained its format and its popularity grew. It was nominated as the top college radio station in the nation from 1988-90 by the influential industry publication, the Gavin Report.

In 1995, the station began a partnership that dramatically reshaped its format when it was named an affiliate of National Public Radio. As a part of this realignment, it added jazz and blues to its broadcast schedule.

A new antenna installed in 1999 brought WFIT to its current 8,000-watt strength, extending the signal from Cocoa Beach to Vero Beach.

In 2006, the station added Indie Rock and adult album alternative, known in the industry as triple A, to its daytime programming, furthering the eclectic mix of musical programming that has included Latin rhythms, reggae, classical, electronica, world, folk, roots and more.  At present, nearly two dozen volunteer hosts contribute their expertise and passion to this culturally diverse mix.

In 2010, fueled by a $1.5 million state grant, the station began construction on a 6,500-square-foot broadcast center on University Avenue that became its home in 2012.

Two years later, the station opened a state-of-the-art performance studio that has since been used to record albums by Florida Tech artists in residence Christian Tamburr and Paul Anquez.

“The station’s evolution and technological advancement have only been possible because of the support of the community and the commitment of the university over the past 40 years,” said WFIT General Manager Terri Wright.

The April 18 event will further the station’s efforts to showcase the Space Coast’s musical talent. The local bands Honey Miller, Jacie and The Knick Knacks, The Bees, Lights Out Project, Simone and Supercats, Robin and Eddie, and Oranga Tanga are scheduled to perform.

Vendors and non-profits registered to participate include Eau Gallie Arts District, Melbourne Main Street, Foosaner Art Museum, Ruth Funk Center, Evans Library University Archives, Space Coast Progressive Alliance, Space Coast Pride, Zonta Club of Melbourne, Melbourne Art Festival, Florida Native Plant Society, Barrier Island Center, Marine Resources Council, Art Lab T-Shirts and Graphics, Old School Pizza, Hazel’s Caribbean Restaurant, Slow and Low BBQ and 80’s in the Park.

The 40th anniversary celebration is sponsored in part by longtime WFIT partner Jack Link and Associates.

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Gaining Strength
A snapshot of WFIT’s increasing coverage over the years.

  • 1975: 10 watts
  • 1979: 41 watts
  • 1980: 3,000 watts
  • 1999: 8,000 watts

Key Dates in WFIT History
Milestones in the history of Florida Tech’s radio station, WFIT 89.5 FM

  • April 4, 1975: WFIT 91.5 FM signs on for the first time
  • May 1980: Switches to its current frequency of 89.5 FM
  • 1995: Becomes National Public Radio affiliate
  • September 1999: New antenna installed, taking station to current 8,000-watt strength
  • September 2000:  Station begins audio streaming on the Internet
  • 2001: Station adds overnight jazz programming
  • 2005: Station begins digital broadcasting
  • October 2012: Station moves to new broadcast center
  • August 2014: Performance studio opens

 
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