Radio students smile in front of the Oberto race boat. Photo courtesy Joe Bryant.
Thousands of people filled the grandstands. At least 30 boats waited on the lake. Music filled the park and news broadcasts played through the loudspeakers. Food stands lined the main path and at the end sat the KMIH radio booth where two MIHS sophomores, Scott Pirak and Gabe Gottesman, interviewed a hydroplane racer moments before his race.
This summer, roughly a dozen students at the MIHS student radio station, KMIH 889 the Bridge, spent the first weekend of August reporting and broadcasting live from Seattle’s Seafair Weekend Festival.
“On one level it was fostering a connection with the Seattle media ecosystem, but on a secondary level it was actually giving kids the opportunity to see the intricacies of what it takes to put on a huge broadcast,” general manager Lila Shroff said.
The Bridge’s relationship with Seafair began far in advance of this year’s event. In 2018, Shroff covered the event in a short piece that won a national award for Best Community News Piece.
“That day we talked to Blue Angel pilots, we talked to Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, we talked to hydroplane racers, we talked to everyone we could find and then we put together a piece,” Shroff said. This piece encouraged the program to expand their coverage of the event into a full broadcast.
Preparation for Seafair began at the end of the school year, when students recorded promotional clips to air in the weeks leading up to the event, according to Shroff.
In addition to giving students broadcast experience in a real world setting, the event helped boost recognition from the community, with the coverage giving them the most listeners ever. The students spent Thursday setting up before the broadcast began Friday, running through the end of the event Sunday, Aug. 4. Students worked the technical side, interviewed people and shadowed professionals.
Gottesman said the most memorable experience was interviewing hydroplane racers before their race.
“You see them in the boats, racing around, and at first I was freaking out a little bit,” Gottesman said. “I’m just a high schooler and I’m interviewing these professional racers that thousands of people are coming to watch.”
Shroff and Gottesman both found it impactful to see their work going out into the world as official as any professional station.
“The booth was set up next to these huge loud speakers and at one point, I was interviewing somebody and I take off the headphones and I hear ten seconds later it’s going out to the whole area and I thought ‘oh my god that’s my voice,’” Shroff said.
Although other radio stations had booths at the fair, Gottesman said they were mostly there to advertise their station rather than cover the event.
“It was really cool walking out as a sophomore in high school after interviewing the biggest drivers and then seeing these professional people that have already graduated college wanting to do the same thing that I just did,” Gottesman said.
Moving forward, the station hopes to maintain their relationship with Seafair, continue building connections to the community and create more opportunities for students to experience live coverage broadcasts.
“I’ve loved working here just because I feel like it’s cool to have people want to hear what
you’re saying,” Gottesman said.
Reflecting on the experience, Gottesman was proud of the work they did and what they were able to produce as high schoolers.
“It was just us and we were able to make this entire thing possible,” Gottesman said. “It was just our work, our voices.”