WPAQ got a brand new set of call sign letters for its birthday.
Kelly Epperson, co-owner of the Mount Airy radio station, made the announcement from the stage during the WPAQ 740 AM 68th Anniversary Celebration at the Earle Theatre on Saturday night.
“I wish my mom and dad and sister were here to share this announcement,” said Epperson, whose father Ralph Epperson opened the station on Feb. 2, 1948.
The original call letters were removed from the building during renovations and were too deteriorated to be put back to use.
They were donated to the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History where they are currently on display.
Several anonymous donors provided for the purchase of a new set, which will be outlined with bright pink neon lights similar to the originals and installed in the next couple of months.
Epperson did have some help with the announcement.
Four youngsters accompanied him onstage, each holding a replica of a letter from the call sign.
Madeline Caudill held “W,” Ricky Caudill held “P,” Abby Epperson held “A” and James Caudill held “Q.”
Nine-year-old Abby Epperson took the microphone after her father.
“I’m amazed to see all of you out here dedicated to something when you could be doing something else,” she said to the audience that overflowed the seats in both levels of the theater and packed the lobby.
“To see WPAQ turn 68 is amazing,” she said.
After the announcement, the music picked back up with the South Carolina Broadcasters.
Band member Ivy Shepphard, who is also a DJ for WPAQ on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, called for another round of applause for Kelly Epperson and company.
“A radio station without call letters is kind of like a house without a mailbox,” she said. “It’ll be great to see them back up there.”
Other bands that performed at the celebration were the Zephyr Lightning Bolts, Rich in Tradition, Slate Mountain Ramblers, The Country Boys and Mickey Galyean & Cullen’s Bridge.
The show provided a quintessentially WPAQ taste of the bluegrass, old time and gospel music that has drawn listeners for so many years.
Stokes County native Ruth Eastep wouldn’t have missed it.
“I’ve been listening to it all its life,” Eastep said about the radio station. “It came on when I was 14 years old. I’m 82 now.”
The King resident said as soon as she gets up each morning she turns on WPAQ.
“It’s special,” she said, adding that she calls in to make a request at least once a week.
“Seeing so many young people here that play this kind of music, it’s a good thing,” she said. “I love it.”
Robert George, of Fransisco, also described himself as a “dedicated listener.”
He said, “I listen to other stations but I always keep the dial tuned to WPAQ.”
Tammy Asher attended the show with her husband Robert and daughters Jessica, Joetta, Ana and Savannah.
It was the family’s first live WPAQ show since moving to Mount Airy from Ohio last year, though they had often tuned in while visiting.
The Ashers spent some time in the area behind the balcony watching a lively group of musicians jam.
In Ohio, “the music wasn’t near as much as this area,” Tammy Asher said.
Lawana Yarbrough, of Winston-Salem, a fiddle convention regular, reflected on the difference between live and recorded music from her seat in the balcony.
“It’s an atmosphere you feel from the crowd,” she said.
Kathy and Tim Saunders came all the way from Reidsville for the event.
“We don’t have it down there like it is here,” Kathy Saunders said. “You all have your act together up here.”
Although the music was the obvious unifying factor of the night, Kelly Epperson said for him the event was all about the listeners.
“I’m just overwhelmed,” he said about the more than full house.
“I love these people, I do. They’re the reason why we do these.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.