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WKHS Celebrates 50 Years On Air with TuneFest

May 4 event features live music and alumni interviews with current high school students

This year, 90.5 WKHS(FM) is celebrating 50 years as the radio voice of Kent County High School in Worton, Md. The anniversary will be punctuated this Saturday, May 4, with TuneFest, an event filled with live music from local bands, food trucks, the opportunity to gather with station alumni and more.

“We see it as a way to celebrate with alumni from the past five decades and at the same time give back to the local community,” station manager Chris Singleton said.

March 28 was the station’s anniversary and its student DJs recaptured the sound from 1974 by spinning tracks on vinyl, including the song that christened WKHS a half-century prior, Elton John’s “Rocket Man.”

WKHS is one of less than 200 high school-operated radio stations in the U.S., and the only one in Maryland, with programming from sophomore, junior and senior students on weekdays during the school year from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM. It also airs specialty shows from community volunteers in the evening hours and it simulcasts 88.5 WXPN(FM) Philadelphia at other times.

“I never thought in a million years I’d be on the radio, but the response I hear from listeners when they acknowledge hearing me, you can’t help but have a smile on your face,” senior Ja Marcus Downs said, who, after enrolling in the broadcast pathway program, now aspires to be a sports broadcaster.

Organizers say Kent County High School students will be heavily involved in TuneFest. The event will take place at Red Acres Farm in Worton and will feature two stages, a 12-foot by 24-foot main stage for the performers within a converted barn and a smaller stage that the students will be commandeering, conducting live interviews with alumni including former station managers.

TuneFest will be simulcast live on WKHS in its entirety. The event’s name and its lineup of bands reflect the sound listeners have come to expect on the station. “We play every genre with the exception of classical and that’s what we have lined up on stage,” Singleton said. He’s already heard from alumni as far away as Seattle who will be in attendance.

Singleton, who also serves as a broadcasting teacher at Kent County High School, was a 1984 graduate of the WKHS program and is one of over 500 students who have completed the school’s broadcast pathway program in its history. Jim Hammond, its first station manager and a mainstay in the broadcast automation industry, and Washington D.C.-based broadcast engineer Fred Willard are among the notable alumni who have come through WKHS.

 Singleton himself was a broadcast engineer at several different Washington D.C. and Baltimore Delmarva area FM stations before returning to his alma mater. He oversaw WKHS’ installation of a GatesAir Flexiva 7.5 kW transmitter in 2022. As a 17.5 kW ERP Class B1 FM station, its signal covers a wide area from northeast Washington D.C. suburbs to southern New Jersey.

The station is self-sustaining through listener support and underwriting, providing a valuable asset to the community and at the same time invaluable first-hand experience for a new generation of broadcasters.

“The soft skills and public speaking experience the students receive we often hear is difference-making, no matter which field they end up entering,” said Singleton.

TuneFest takes place at Red Acres Farm in Worton and will run from 12–5 p.m. on May 4. Tickets are $25.

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