It's been almost a year since longtime WORT-FM supporter Andrew Bangert and his two young sons picketed outside the station's studios, demanding airtime for a radio program aimed at children and preteens.
The low-key demonstration lasted only about 30 minutes, but that was long enough for the trio to make their point. The Bangert boys -- 9-year-old Dylan and 7-year-old Derek -- along with Andrew, their mom Kim and sometimes a friend or two now host WORT's "Pachyderm Parade," every Sunday from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
"It was a friendly picket," says Sybil Augustine, the station's music director, who moved "Hmong Radio" to an open slot on Sunday mornings to make way for the Parade. "It showed they had a sense of humor while still wanting to get noticed and be taken seriously."
Dubbed "radio for kids and the young at heart," "Pachyderm Parade" is a family show that includes interviews with children's book authors and illustrators, ticket giveaways to Madison Mallards games and Dan Zanes concerts, a joke segment, personal anecdotes about family vacations and musical selections culled from about 100 CDs as disparate as Raffi Radio, Taj Mahal's Shake Sugaree and Mine! by acoustic folk-rockers Trout Fishing in America.
The music introduces young listeners to a variety of genres, from traditional kids' songs to up-tempo folk and low-key reggae. Not all kid-friendly music, however, is permitted. Because the program targets families, Andrew says, the challenge is finding a balance between songs young people will like and ones their parents also will enjoy. For instance, for him, the Chipmunks tip the scale too far in the wrong direction.
The family, on the air since January, has no broadcasting experience (Andrew is an electrician and Kim is a radiation therapist), but despite the occasional spot of dead air, the program has raised enough money in WORT's regular on-air pledge drives to justify its continued existence.
"We always liked the idea of a kids' radio show, but we needed somebody who really wanted to produce one," Augustine says, adding that the show not only has received "tremendous response" but also fulfills WORT's mission statement to target listeners underrepresented by other media. "The time has definitely come. I knew that once it started, it would take off. I perceive the show being here a long time."
Meanwhile, Derek and Dylan would like to receive more requests from listeners, and if they don't have the song in the "Pachyderm Parade" CD library, they'll track it down and play it the following week. Given WORT's enthusiasm, they also might have to eventually find their successors. "As we get older," Dylan confides, "we think the interest in kids music will wear off."