KBHB Radio will receive the Black Hills Stock Show’s AgriBusiness of the Year Award on Jan. 26. Shown from left is former KBHB owner Marguerite Kleven, present co-owner and general manager Dean Kinney and former general manager Dana Caldwell.
KBHB Radio will receive the Black Hills Stock Show’s AgriBusiness of the Year Award on Jan. 26. Shown from left is former KBHB owner Marguerite Kleven, present co-owner and general manager Dean Kinney and former general manager Dana Caldwell.

By Codi Vallery-Mills

It’s a unique mix of talk radio, news, country music, local happenings and a heavy dose of ag markets that congeal together to make KBHB Radio on 810 AM what it is today. 

Farmers tune in for the latest agricultural market reports, wives flip the switch to hear the local news and kids turn up the volume for school announcements and everyone taps their feet to the best of country music from yesteryear. 

Few radio stations have had such an impact on its rural listeners as KBHB based in Sturgis, S.D. Because of this, the radio station is being honored with the Black Hills Stock Show Agri-Business of the Year Award. 

Started in the early 60s KBHB radio began its first broadcast on Sept. 27, 1962. The first song played was “Alley Cat” by Bent Fabric. Owners Les and Marguerite Kleven didn’t know it at the time but they would go on to set a precedent in how hometown radio broadcasting was done in western South Dakota. Just days after the first broadcast the Cuban Missile Crisis happened and KBHB Radio did its best to cover the national news. 

But where the radio station would excel at, and arguably still does, is in its coverage of news and market reports that mattered to the rural communities of western South Dakota and surrounding areas. Daily you can hear community happenings for small towns with a population under 1,000. Auction market listings for the region’s active sale barns and remember those who have passed on with the reading of the obituary notices. 

 “Les and Marguerite recognized early on that serving the ag community was a unique business approach. There weren’t other radio stations locally that focused heavily on agriculture. They recognized the value of the ag community and as the years went by we got more and more attached to the ag community through the fundraisers we did. We have felt we were part of them and hopefully, they have felt like they were part of us,” says Dean Kinney who first started with the radio station as a night announcer at the age of 17 in 1988 and is now the general manager and part owner of the station. 

Through radio-a-thons and live fundraiser broadcasts KBHB has helped numerous volunteer fire departments, rural schools, country churches, and community centers be built. There is coverage of agricultural issues of concern and when disaster strikes as it did in 2013 when Storm Atlas blew across South Dakota killing livestock it was there to report on the incident but also to serve as a resource for those impacted and those wanting to help.

 “I think that a lot of people in the ag community realize how much that we care about them and that our efforts are not just about a business transaction but it is something that is genuine,” Kinney notes. “We have had the opportunity to demonstrate that over the years at various fundraisers and helping to grow the ag community and prop it up when it is needed and promote the ag community when it is needed, and I think they recognized that. But more importantly, is what the ag community has done for us than for what we have done for it. The ag community is KBHB and I think we are just lucky to have the loyalty that we have from the ag people and to have earned it and we don’t ever want to lose it. Ag people are salt of the earth people and being in agriculture is a lifestyle, not just a job and that is how we think of KBHB – as being a part of that lifestyle and not just a job.” 

Every winter farmers and ranchers flock to Rapid City for the Black Hills Stock Show. There, you will find KBHB radio in the north corridor of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center conducting live broadcasts throughout the event. 

“It’s just where the ag people come in the winter time. It’s a premier event and we have always felt like it was something to be a part of,” Kinney says. “We do a lot more talk programming during the stock show because there are people there to visit with. It adds another dimension with the guests we are able to have on while there.”

Through the years, KBHB has been involved in BHSS different events – like the KBHB Bucking Horse Sale, Friday night PRCA rodeo, and Broncs for Breakfast. Kinney says the radio station is friends with the Central States Fair Board and the Sutton Rodeo family and tries to promote and support the two in a variety of ways. 

Receiving the Agri-Business of the Year Award is a huge honor for the radio station and speaks to the 50 plus years of quality support it has given the to the stock show and the ag community of South Dakota. 

“I don’t know if we could receive an honor that we would be more proud of. We certainly think of ourselves as an ag business and so to be recognized in that way is hugely humbling,” Kinney says. 

He explains when it came time to take the honoree photo for the award, he and his business partners settled on a picture of Marguerite Kleven, Kinney and Dana Caldwell who has been with the station since its inception. 

“KBHB is really unique in the fact that it has only ever had three general managers. Les Kleven, who has passed away, Dana Caldwell and myself. With the photo we were hoping to speak to the symbolism of KBHB over the years,” Kinney says.  

What does KBHB radio have planned for the future? To stay the course and continue to be involved in the daily delivery of news that is important to farmers and ranchers all while adapting to the ways people want to consume their audio. 

KBHB is well-poised to take on the future of audio thanks to the assets found in HomeSlice Group which purchased KBHB in 2014. Founded by Kinney along with Clint Brengle, and Mark and Mike Bruch, HomeSlice began as an entertainment company. When the opportunity came along to purchase KBHB radio, thanks to Lia Green who ran the radio stations in Rapid City that HomeSlice has now, it was a dream come true for Kinney. 

He and his wife, Toni who has been instrumental at KBHB since her hiring in 1994, had been effectively managing the station like it was their own long before it was.  “Thanks to Lia Green for a once in a lifetime opportunity and to my business partners for believing in it, we were able to purchase KBHB,” Kinney says.  

He says the longtime staff at KBHB – Bob Looby, Chris Kaitfors, Rich Verschoor and Gary Matthews to name a few – have been the reason the radio station has been so successful. Many of them have worked there for decades and are crucial. “We have a great sales team and on-air team. It has always been a good place to work. It has always felt family oriented. My business partners, wife and I think of KBHB almost as something you don’t own you just get to take care of it for a little while. Hopefully, for us, it will be a long while,” Kinney says.

KBHB radio will be honored at the Black Hills Stock Show’s Banquet & Ball on Jan. 26 in Rapid City and the Ramkota.