Launching last year, Fiesta 94.5 has found success in Central Nebraska by getting connected to the community. The station is the first full-power Spanish-language radio in the area, reaching Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings, and other parts of central Nebraska.
Raúl Arcos-Hawkins starts his morning the same every day— tuning into Fiesta 94.5.
“When I get up, I’m listening to it. When I’m getting ready for work, I’m still listening to it. I think it allows me to catch up on what I missed out on the day before,” Arcos-Hawkins said.
Since the station launched last year, Fiesta 94.5 has become a favorite for Spanish speakers like Arcos-Hawkins across central Nebraska.
Fiesta 94.5 launched last year in May after Flood Communications in Norfolk bought out the previous station KILQ “The Breeze 94.5,” following their shift to focus on serving rural and Hispanic audiences of the state. The Hispanic population in Hall County now accounts for close to 29% of the population, according to the Census Bureau.
The station is the first full-power Spanish-language radio in the area, reaching Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings and other parts of central Nebraska.
Unlike their competitor, which simply plays Spanish music and national network broadcasting, local DJs host specific morning and afternoon shows for the area, take requests for segments and play an array of current popular Spanish music. Telemundo Nebraska, a television station owned by Flood Media, based in Omaha, provides a news broadcast during the day.
Arcos-Hawkins is the executive director of the Multicultural Coalition, a non-profit organization that empowers newcomers to the area or state through services, including immigration legal services and a help center. He met early with the station’s leadership to give his perspective as a community leader on the station’s launch in the area.
As director of operations for Fiesta 94.5 and Radio Lobo 97.7, Jose Ramón Muñoz leads the stations through programming, promotions and more. Jose Ramón Muñoz was one of the first Spanish-speaking DJs in the state when he started working on Radio Lobo 97.7 in Omaha some 20 years ago.
Ramón Muñoz said he saw the benefit Spanish radio provided to Omaha residents.
“One of the things Radio Lobo did for Omaha was to unify the Hispanic community. We saw a lot of businesses advertise their service. The community just boomed, and I believe we were part of it,” Ramón Muñoz said.
He said he wants the same for Fiesta 94.5.
“We want Fiesta to be the central point of what’s happening. If people want to know what’s happening in the area, if a business wants to advertise, or if an organization needs help, we want to be there,” Ramón Muñoz said.
The station’s office is located on Fourth Street, along with a new Telemundo Nebraska studio booth.
The decision to house the station on Fourth Street was intentional, given the large concentration of Hispanic businesses located there.
Agustin Sanchez is one of those business owners. He owns Tacos Los Hermanos, a popular taqueria and paleteria.
“When I heard about it, it was good news. I think it’s great for businesses to advertise. Radio stations bring a lot of new events, they bring shows, and they bring more people in. They create an environment,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez started the Fourth Street Festival, which showcases live music, local food and businesses. It’s now a significant event that brings thousands of people to Fourth Street in the summer.
Last summer, despite only launching a month earlier, Fiesta 94.5 got involved right away.
Arcos-Hawkins and Ramón Muñoz said this commitment to getting involved with the local community has been a factor in their success.
“The fact we’re a local radio station that has local live DJs that are from the community and connect to the community through phone calls, taking messages, going to events and participating in events is what really sets us apart from other stations and other platforms. Radio is the essence of the community, especially since it makes a lot for the Hispanic community. By having local aspects and reaching out, we create two-way communication because people reach out,” Ramón Muñoz said.
Along with the Fourth Street Festival, Fiesta 94.5 has hosted and participated in multiple other events, including Fiesta on Fourth Street, an event with Telemundo Nebraska and Lexington Regional Health Center, United by Culture, the Literacy Council of Grand Island, and others.
”From early on, they were in the community. They went to Lexington. They went to Hastings. They were out there fully embracing the community,” Arcos-Hawkins said.
This involvement has not only allowed people to start paying attention but also businesses, Ramón Muñoz said.
“Our Hispanic community has grown remarkably in the area. More and more business owners want to know how to reach the community. I think it’s needed in the area,” he said.
Located in Kearney, Swenson Orthodontics advertises with the station partly because two of their assistants and their head dentist speak Spanish. They saw Fiesta 94.5 as a resource to connect with the Hispanic community, said Financial Coordinator Ivette Sandoval.
“We’ve noticed people calling knowing that we know Spanish, and they know we can help,” Sandoval said.
This upcoming May, the station will have its first anniversary. The station doesn’t have enough data yet to provide a rating, but Ramón Muñoz said he knows the station will keep growing as they become more intertwined with the local community.
“One thing we’ve seen with Fiesta is people from Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings and Lexington now have something in common, which is the radio station. Radio is the essence of the community. When we came aboard and started broadcasting, people pretty much were saying now we finally have someone we can listen to and relate to,” Ramón Muñoz said.