By Jeffrey Hage
An old friend is returning to Princeton and Milaca-area airwaves.
An old friend will be at the helm of the station’s rebirth, too.
WQPM Radio is gearing up to resume live broadcasts from its Princeton studios after a three-year absence. The radio station currently broadcasts from Milestone Radio, LLC studios in Ramsey and Albany.
Dale Olmstead is returning to WQPM as general manager and has his sights set on returning the station to its glory days as a local voice of the community. Olmstead was WQPM general manager from 1976-79 under then-owner Terry Montgomery and left the area to start his own radio station in Thief River Falls. He later purchased radio stations in his hometown of Fosston, too.
Olmstead sold his radio station interests in 1993. He and his wife Connie moved to Cross Lake in the Brainerd area and then moved to the north metro area.
It just might be fate that will end up returning the station to its former glory.
Last fall the Olmsteads moved to Princeton.
“I had no intention of returning to a radio station,” Olmstead said.
“But as I look out my front door, I see the WQPM tower,” he said.
That got Olmstead thinking quite a bit about the old days at the station.
He called current owner Dennis Carpenter of Otsego and the two set up a meeting.
“I asked what his plans were for the station,” Olmstead said.
The two also discussed the possibility of reopening the WQPM studios and originating the station’s programming from the south side of Princeton.
After the meeting, Olmstead was hired to return to WQPM as the station’s new general manager.
The WQPM studios have been gutted out in anticipation of a total remodel, Olmstead said.
“Our plans are to build three new studios, and when that is done, we can go on live from our own local studios again,” he said.
New state-of-the-art broadcast equipment will also be installed, Olmstead said.
The new WQPM will be different from what you now hear on the station, Olmstead said. The station will conduct a survey to help management determine a music format and programming. Olmstead said he will hire a local sales team, local announcers and a news director. He is currently working to line up state and national news content to supplement the local news, weather and sports that will be broadcast on the station, he said.
There will also be local talk shows and listener call-in shows, Olmstead said.
A WQPM history lesson
The station originated in Princeton on Feb. 1, 1967, as AM station WKPM and was owned by Terry Montgomery of St. Cloud and Bruce Salberg of Princeton. In 1975, the WQPM call letters were assigned to the station when it added an FM broadcast. In 1976, the stations began to simulcast the same programming over both AM and FM.
In 1976, Salberg sold his interest in the station and Todd Rust was hired as station manager. Olmstead was hired as sales manager.
Rust left in the late summer of that year to help establish a radio station in Amery, Wis. Olmstead then became general manager and the music format was changed to country music.
Olmstead left the station in 1979, to start a station in Thief River Falls.
Montgomery sold the station to Paul Steigerwald, Olmstead said. Steigerwald sold the station to current owner Milestone Radio, LLC, he said.