By Shanna O’Mara
Throngs of people bustled through the Dutch landscape replicated inside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, weaving through displays emphasizing nature, recycling and eclectic beauty, while the fragrance of over 30,000 tulips filled the air.
Past the prize-winning long stems, under the brick bridges and through the tall grass, a group of students repositioned their headsets as the clock ticked down.
“We’re about to go live,” said Andrew Zayicek, junior digital media major. A hush fell over the table.
Students from Rider’s radio station, 107.7 The Bronc, broadcasted live in front of 40,000 people, according to General Manager John Mozes, at opening day of the Philadelphia Flower Show on March 11. Mozes has been taking students to this event for the past five years, giving them the opportunity to participate in this learning process.
“Our students are professional, they are knowledgeable, so when they come here, it’s almost like you’re dealing with a commercial radio station,” Mozes said of his students at the prestigious event, themed “Holland: Flowering the World.”
“The kids are polite, they’re interactive, they ask good questions and that’s part of the engaged learning experience,” he said. “They’re learning on the job and they’re taking that and excelling with it.”
Zayicek, the student program director, and senior public relations major Meghan Korb planned The Bronc’s involvement at the event this year. With help from Alan Jaffe, senior director of communications and media at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), the students were able to gather guests for each of the four shows broadcasted live that day: “Inside Your Mind,” “Turf’s Up Radio,” “Sustainable You” and “Your Pet Matters.”
Under a ceiling of 6,000 suspended dried blooms, junior digital media major Matt St. Onge interviewed big names in the Convention Center including the chief of show, the president of the PHS and head of marketing. St. Onge, a student producer for The Bronc, was one of three students who had previously worked the event. Nick Smith, a freshman digital media major, was new to the scene but said he quickly realized the learning benefit of such an event.
“With this, there’s a lot of different variables,” said Smith, producer of “Inside Your Mind.” “Back at Rider, we’re in a booth and we broadcast from there. A lot of the time, my show is prerecorded, but here, it’s all live. Anything could happen.”
While updating social media accounts, checking the sound system and dodging event attendees looking for an information booth, freshman arts administration major Savannah Cones practiced skills necessary in college and after graduation when she applies for a full-time job.
“There are a lot of radio stations who do concerts and do promos,” Cones said as the twin windmills lit up center-stage. “As a host or just working at a radio station in general, you’re going to have to be a part of those things. You can’t be scared to be in front of people and announce yourself.”
Zayicek and St. Onge met these expectations when they traveled south for their show “Turf’s Up Radio” which can be heard on WBZT 1230 AM from West Palm Beach, Florida.
“For ‘Turf’s Up Radio,’ I was flown down to Florida to do an event there,” Zayicek said. “Everything that we went through was all real-life stuff because it was just me and my partner, St. Onge. When we did that, we had to set everything up, talk to the sponsors, get everything set. The only reason we were ready to do that was because of The Bronc.”
Students who participate in events like the Philadelphia Auto Show on Jan. 29 and the Flower Show this month gain experience unmatched by many other college radio stations, according to Mozes.
“By doing a broadcast live from the largest event of its kind in the world, and you go out and tell people that — potential sponsors, potential people you’re doing contests with or promotions like we do now — they find that amazing,” Mozes said. “We try to put the students in a position that when they leave Rider, they can already not have an entry level job, they can have better than that. They know how to run the equipment, they know how to interview guests, they know how to do a show, they know how to put together an event or a promotion, and it gives them a competitive edge. This kind of event propels them to be successful after Rider.”
Sophomore broadcast journalism major Eric Weinstein said he saw a great purpose to the event, aside from showcasing nature and entertaining guests.
“All of the proceeds from this go to helping sustainability, creating an environment and a world that are going to last,” he said. “Yes, these flowers are pretty for the time being, but being here to see these attractions goes on to serve a bigger purpose.”
The Bronc’s staff has already been invited to broadcast live from the event next year, according to Mozes.
He said, “When they put their résumé together and they put all [the events we do] on there and they go for an interview, [the employer will ask,] ‘You broadcasted live from the Flower Show? Who did that for you?’ and they’ll say, ‘I did that. We did that.’”