Radio station rides wave to Florida

By Thomas Albano

Darren Gruner hosts Turf’s Up, which is now broadcast in West Palm Beach on iHeart Radio over 1230 AM WBZT.
Darren Gruner hosts Turf’s Up, which is now broadcast in West Palm Beach on iHeart Radio over 1230 AM WBZT.

The college radio station, Rider’s 107.7 The Bronc, ranked 15th in the nation by The Princeton Review, just received an expansion out-of-state.

One of the station’s sponsored Saturday morning programs, Turf’s Up, can be heard not only on 107.7 The Bronc and its website and apps, but now also on iHeart Radio over 1230 AM WBZT in West Palm Beach, Florida. Turf’s Up’s central purpose is to give listeners advice on lawn care and give tips on how to turn a dull lawn into one of the best-looking in the neighborhood.

Turf’s Up’s host Darren Gruner is a landscape designer and installer who, in 1983 at the age of 17, began his own company, Kentucky Blue. Now, Gruner runs TotalScape Design, Inc., which focuses on not just landscaping, but also things such as home remodeling, building patios and decks and irrigation services.

“I talked to the Program Director down there [at 1230 AM WBZT],” Gruner said. “He was interested in the show and thought it would be a perfect match for the station.

“I’ve actually been doing landscaping since I was 11. I’ve loved doing it. I ended up deciding not to continue the pre-med program I was in and to continue doing what I loved.”

The current producers of the show, who also assist Gruner as co-hosts, are sophomore digital media majors Andrew Zayicek, The Bronc’s media player director, and Matthew St. Onge, its assistant program director.

“It originally started out as an idea in the back of Darren’s head,” St. Onge said. “He was working with the station down in Florida and they locked in a deal. Then it was a lot of preparation, but we found out in early October.”

Turf’s Up airs every Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. Other sponsored weekend shows from the station include Your Pet Matters, which is about pet health; Inside Your Mind, which deals with topics including mental health and addiction; and Your Career is Calling, a show about landing a job and improving key job skills.

The fact that the shows are sponsored does not influence content, according to the general manager of The Bronc, John Mozes.

“[Sponsorship] has absolutely no effect,” he said. “The content is designed to always serve the public, first and foremost, and the revenue gained from underwriting these terrific and ambitious programs.”

This deal, plus the national ranking The Bronc received from The Princeton Review this past summer, can help other shows on the station, St. Onge hopes.

“It’s really huge for The Bronc,” he said. “We are, as far as we know, the first college radio station to work with a commercial radio station like that. It really opens up a lot of opportunities for other shows on The Bronc.”

And Gruner says working with St. Onge and Zayicek has been a real treat with their talents.

“They’re great students. They’re involved,” Gruner said. “To me, they’re more professionals now than they are students at this point. They learn quickly and easily. They come up with ideas for segments and they deliver.”

Since the syndicated airing started, beginning with the Nov. 21 episode, the show’s social media has seen a rise in numbers. Zayicek brought up the show’s Facebook page to show the benefits.

“From Nov. 25 to Dec. 1, we got 47 new page likes — which upped it 370 percent — and we’ve reached 1,086 people,” Zayicek said. “So it was just a lot to be able to move forward with it and just keep these statistics going. And now we’ve been growing and growing and we have over 200 likes.

“When [St. Onge] and I started, we had less than 100 likes and now we’re up to 225. So now more people can like our Facebook page and get involved. We’re now doing giveaways and contests, so it’s good to promote it like that and advertise more every time we’re on the radio.”

Zayicek added that it could also be a benefit to members of the station, such as himself and St. Onge.

“We’ve been listening to [iHeart] for so long, and now to actually be on iHeart Radio, it’s kind of like a dream come true,” he said. “It hopefully opens up some doors later in our careers because we’re both radio, television and film majors. We’ve talked to a lot of people and have met a lot of people on-air. It’s putting our name out there. You never know, could be another stepping stone in the right direction.”

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