Royals Radio Affiliate Profile: Fairbury, Nebraska [1310 KGMT-AM]

The Royals Radio Network is comprised of 86 affiliates and stretches across eight states. At first glance this might seem less impressive than the numbers suggest, as the typical view of small-town Nebraska differs little from the typical view of small-town Kansas or small-town Iowa for that matter. We know better. In this recurring series Royals Review attempts to give each affiliate its proper airing, celebrating the regional heritage of Royals baseball. In a sporting era corrupted by the endless quest for the big money, baseball on the radio is a decidedly low-stakes, low-tech venture. Let it always lay hidden like a strength in the backyards of the mind.

Previous Affiliate Profiles:

York, Nebraska
Conway, Arkansas
Waynesville, Missouri
Topeka, Kansas
Storm Lake, Iowa
Vinita, Oklahoma
California, Missouri
Garden City, Kansas
Belle Fourche, South Dakota
Ulysses, Kansas
Trenton, Missouri

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1310 KGMT-AM: Fairbury, Nebraska
Population: 4,262
Miles from Kansas City: 203


Unstoppable baby: Southeast Nebraska rises gloriously out of abstract white space.

Located almost directly northwest of Kansas City, just over the Nebraska-Kansas border lies the proud berg of Fairbury, Nebraska, the county seat of Jefferson County. According to the 2000 Census, Fairbury is 97.9% white, with 42.9% of the town's population claiming German industry. Interestingly enough, 5.7% of the town's population was living in another state in 1995. Kansas probably. You know how fickle Kansans are. Only 2.2% of Fairbury is unemployed, but 44.9% of the town considers itself "outside the labor force"; perhaps because, like many small-towns, Fairbury has a graying population, 29.7% of Fairbury's populace is over 62.

Pie chart showing Weeks With Seven Days/Weeks Without Seven Days also available.

Fairbury's history goes back to the days of the Oregon Trail and has long been associated with the Rock Creek Station, a major stop on the Trail that lies just southeast of the town. From there, Fairbury was later conceived as a town in anticipation of an as-yet-un-built rail line. In 1869 the town was founded, taking its name from the Illinois hometown of one of the founders, Woodford G. McDowell. Today Fairbury is home to a Pizza Hut, Subway and a McDonald's as well as a few local choices, including TrailBlazers, Doozy's, Griffey's and a quaint delicatessen with no name located inside a hidden gem called "WalMart". This place might takeoff. In Fairbury you can shop at Dollar General, the Memories & More Antique Mall and work on your tan at Enhancements Tanning, store motto: "If You Bare It, We'll Brown It".

According to this promotional photo from Enhancements Tanning one under-reported side-effect of tanning is a loss of balance. Keep hunky Jeep-driving types around for safety purposes.

Every year the Fairbury City Park hosts the obscurely named "Fairbury Fest" in early September. This year, its Sept. 7-9, with a theme of "Smokin Good Time". In addition to a second-hand smoke endurance competition, a smoke ring contest and a Putting-a-cigarette-out-with-your-tongue-a-thon, Fairbury Fest will feature a BBQ contest, a 10K, an Art & Quilt Show, a Classic Car display and a dance on Saturday night. On Sunday, Fairbury will host its first major "geocaching" competition.

Indubitably, many students from Fairbury High School will be in attendance during the "Smokin Good Time", enriching the social fabric of the town with their characteristic enthusiasm for cross-generational social interaction. F.H.S. can proudly claim one of the odder mascot names in Nebraska, as all Fairbury teams are known as the "Jeffs", a title apparently in honor of Fairbury's Jefferson County. Apparently county pride is a big deal in Fairbury, which at least partially explains the town's long-standing tension with the states of Louisiana and Alaska, which instead have parishes and boroughs, respectively. This outsider wishes the mascot "Fairies" was considered, but native Nebraskans will note that their state has long been controlled by hobgoblins and trolls.

Still, despite these numerous and sundry charms, not all members of the community are spending their days floating in everlasting bliss. On Facebook, a group called "Why Living in Fairbury is Pointless" boasts 70 members, all willing to subscribe to the oath: "For everyone who wishes that they didn't live in Fairbury (aka: Pointless USA, NE)".

If those ne'er-do-wells think "Fairbury is Pointless" then perhaps they should follow the lead set by Loren and Barb Ebke, the Fairbury couple who are attempting to drive every mile of every paved road in Nebraska. In previous years the Ebke's have visited every town in Nebraska, as well as every county courthouse. Thankfully, the Ebke's are giving themselves credit for the roads they've already driven - the visiting every town thing took thirteen years to complete - but it isn't immediately clear if they mean every road (as in town to town transportation) or every street (i.e., having to drive around Omaha for three days, if not more). Still, in this story by KHAS-TV, the implication seems to be everything:

"We are doing all the paved roads in Nebraska," said Barb.

If there is blacktop on it, Barb and Loren are determined to travel it. And not just part of the road - every mile of it.

"We have the roads highlighted that we have been on. So mainly through the middle part of Nebraska," said Barb. "We have to do the eastern part and we have not been to the panhandle yet because we just have not had time."

I hope they listen to Royals games when they're out driving around.

Near Fairbury, the Ebke's might consider tuning into 1310 KGMT-AM, your "Good Time Oldies Station" in southeast Nebraska. According to the KGMT website, the station only broadcasts twelve hours a day (6:00 am to 6:00 pm), "depending on the time of year". Presumably however, that doesn't include baseball season, since the KGMT website proudly advertises their affiliation with the Royals! While KGMT sticks to the oldies, they also simulcast with their sister station 99.5 KUTT-FM, "today's best country". The highlight of the simulcast schedule, at least for me, is the 6:00-8:00 AM Phil and Randy Show:

Finally a reason to wake up in the morning! Randy rides solo on Monday mornings, but Phil joins him Tuesday through Friday and the fun doesn't stop... well, that is until 8 when their shift ends. Through out (sic) the morning you can hear hilarious (sic) skits, great country music, Birthday announcements, today in History, weather, and ag reports. News Director Stan Smith comes in at 7 to do a check of State and Local News and Sports director Cody Thomas does a morning sports report at 7:25.

Remarkably, despite being a small community, Fairbury claims at least one Major League Baseball player as her own, a right-handed pitcher named Doyle "Porky" Lade. Born on February 17th 1921, Lade made his big league debut in 1946 with the Chicago Cubs, the only team he would ever play for. Lade's minor league career had begun in 1939, and was interrupted for three years while he served in the Coast Guard in World War II. In five seasons (1946-50) Lade appeared in 126 games (including 64 as a starter) en route to a 25-29 record and a 4.39 career ERA, slightly below average for his era. Lade's best season was 1947, when he went 11-10 and posted a 3.94 ERA, exactly league-average. That same season he finished 8th in the National League with five wild pitches, tying the legendary Warren Spahn in that slightly shameful but mostly harmless category. Despite being thoroughly decent, Lade was out of the majors before he turned thirty. Nevertheless, Lade floated around the minor leagues until 1954.

Lade died in Lincoln, Nebraska in 2000 at the age of 79.

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