Radio station in Tama serves Iowa's changing population

2011-03-02T09:00:00Z 2011-03-02T14:54:15Z Radio station in Tama serves Iowa's changing populationBy KRISTIN GUESS, kristin.guess@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier
March 02, 2011 9:00 am  • 

TAMA, Iowa --- A statewide shift in demographics is changing the makeup of Iowa's population, and bringing along with it programming to meet the new residents' tastes and needs.

Say hola to Radio Zeta, an all-Spanish language format delivering music, news, weather and sports.

KZAT 95.5 FM went on the air in September and broadcasts from an upstairs studio in downtown Tama. The owners are Manuel Villagrana and Rigoberto Lopez of Ankeny.

The Latino and Hispanic population in Iowa between 2000 and 2010 increased by more than 83 percent, from 82,473 people to 151,544, according to the U.S. Census. The change is obvious in the Marshalltown School District, where 39.9 percent of the students are Hispanic.

"It's is a lot bigger than what you think," Villagrana said.

Villagrana moved to the U.S. from central Mexico when he was 16. He has six years of experience in the radio business, moving from Chicago to Minneapolis before settling in Toledo.

"A year ago I didn't ever have the idea to come here," he said.

When the opportunity developed, Villagrana faced a tough decision.

"It was either do it now, or let it go," he said.

Disc jockeys Luz Rodriguez and Javier Reyes are from Minneapolis. Jessica Fuentes is originally from California but moved to the area from Miami to join Radio Zeta. They offer programming from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.

Live streaming is available online at www.radioz955fm.com and the station's Facebook page is growing rapidly, suggesting Radio Zeta continues to gain popularity. The page gained about 2,000 friends in two and a half months.

"You can really tell how people feel by the way they respond to Facebook," Fuentes said.

A sports page is in the works for South Tama High School basketball season, and other local sports will be integrated year round.

The intent is to give something back to the community, Villagrana said.

Radio Zeta also hosts events at Salon Diana's Ballroom in Marshalltown, pulling in bands on tour and DJs from Mexico and other places.

A performance Feb. 12 at Diana's by the band Montez attracted about 800 fans. About 200 were from the Waterloo area, according to Villagrana.

Fuentes expects a large audience for Los Buitres de Culiacan Sinaloa from Los Angelos. The band will perform Saturday.

"A really popular band right now - they're in the top 20," Fuentes said.

In the future the station looks to increase its coverage area. Its signal reaches about 50 miles. The owners also hope to host an annual festival with mariachi bands, food and entertainment. They are planning a rodeo at Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel in Tama, and a daily 6 a.m. talk show is set to air in March.

"The idea is to have schools and businesses involved and integrate the two cultures," Villagrana said. "We are here to be part of the community, to help and serve."

 

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