New Format, New Mission: KVON Radio Brings the Spanish Language to Napa Valley | Local News

This month’s changes to the Radio Center in Napa County are as visible as the studio’s new front window lettering – and as audible as the sounds of Spanish-language music and news now playing on the local waves 24 hours a day.

KVON-AM 1440 completes the second week of its latest incarnation as the county’s first all-Spanish radio station. The new format, which station owner Wine Down Media announced last month and launched Jan. 3, completes a five-year transition that has seen KVON increasingly host programming for Napa Valley Latinos who represent more one-third of the county’s population.

“I didn’t know why no one else had thought of this before,” said Gabriela Fernandez, host and producer of KVON’s morning show, which airs 7-10 a.m. weekdays. “It’s organic; it feels like we’re on a mission to bring that to the community.

“What surprised me was how many people felt compelled to say they appreciated having a station to invest in,” Fernandez said during a commercial break about midway through. – course of his Friday show. “It’s been two weeks, and at least one person a day mentions us on social media.”

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Morning host Fernandez and afternoon host Nico de Luna, who moved to KVON from sister station KVYN-FM 99.3, head up the station’s outreach to Latino audiences in the valley. De Luna’s program appears from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

The changes were evident Friday morning outside and inside Wine Down Media’s Gasser Drive headquarters, where the large bay window in front bore KVON’s freshly laid green and purple “MegaMix” branding – a name chosen by owners Will and Julissa Marcencia to appeal equally to Spanish and English speakers.

In a studio room a few steps from the doors, the red light turned on Fernandez’s microphone at 7:40 a.m. as she began to interview Cara Mae Wooledge – in Spanish – about the Napa Farmers Market of which Wooledge is the manager.

A staple of downtown life, the Farmers’ Market is an example of the variety of events and developments – from distributions of COVID-19 test kits to public school students to the annual light art festival to cancellations. of events due to a pandemic – which Fernandez discussed on air for Spanish speakers during the first two weeks of the revamped KVON. According to Fernandez, an over-air personality at KVON and KVYN since 2018.

The paucity of Latino-focused radio in Napa County contrasts sharply with the situation in Santa Rosa and Sonoma County, where several Spanish-language stations serve a population more than three times that of Napa County. .

It was the sudden 2017 North Bay wildfire crisis that put KVON on the path to full-time Spanish programming, according to Will Marcencia, who with his wife Julissa formed Wine Down Media and bought KVON and KVYN earlier that year.

“It was around 11 a.m. Monday (October 9, 2017, the day after the fires started) when a man called the studio and asked what was going on in Napa Valley,” Will Marcencia recalled. “He evacuated because his neighbors had evacuated. His family was outside a gas station, and he was calling from there and he had no information at all.

“I hadn’t slept at all that night, and then I realized, ‘Oh my God, there was no message in Spanish at all. So I called Nico de Luna and said, ‘Hey, we have to do messages in Spanish.’ »

In the following days, stations aired Napa County Supervisors Belia Ramos and Alfredo Pedroza and others to keep listeners updated on the evolving crisis. Such on-the-fly programming became a lifeline for listeners at a time when Nixle County emergency alerts in the early hours of wildfires weren’t available in Spanish – then were badly translated. confused when they finally emerged later in the rush, a grand county jury then ruled.

Napa stations added more hours of Spanish-language programming in subsequent years, thanks to Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s first preemptive power outages in November 2019, the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and the a new series of forest fires. later this year.

In September, the Marcencias decided to consolidate Spanish programming on their AM station, whose 5,000-watt daytime signal covers most of Napa County, eastern Sonoma County, as well as Vallejo and Fairfield in the county. of Solano. (A second transmitter at 96.9 FM increases KVON’s reach in South Napa and American Canyon.)

For KVON’s new format, Fernandez and Julissa Marcencia create music playlists designed to appeal across genre boundaries and across ages – from 28-year-old Fernandez generation to older Latinos of the 2018 generation. his parents. Setlists have been tweaked and changed almost daily in the first two weeks of KVON’s reboot, and fast-growing hits – such as tracks from Disney’s animated film “Encanto” – can be loaded from a computer. portable directly into the station’s broadcast software. as soon as they gain ground on social networks.

Wine Down Media will be looking for other local personalities to fill the rest of the program in Spanish, Julissa Marcencia said on Friday. In the coming weeks, KVON plans to launch new features such as Mini Festivals in MegaMix, a trio of songs by an artist to play from noon, and Sorpresitas, unique hit songs that will be sprinkled in the lists of daily reading. .

With the change in radio format, KVON’s former English-language morning show “Wine Country Live,” run by Barry Martin and Jamie Miller, moved to KVYN-FM, as did sportscaster Ira C. Smith.

You can reach Howard Yune at 530-763-2266 or

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