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Monday, May 20, 2024

Welcome to the teens: 98.3 The Penguin turns 13

The Penguin's Eric Miller on air in the station's new studio. Photo by Hannah Leyva.
The Penguin’s Eric Miller on air in the station’s new studio. Photo by Hannah Leyva.

The preteen years are full of change and growth, even for a radio station.

Since celebrating its 12th birthday last August, 98.3 WUIN The Penguin has moved twice from its old home on Cinema Drive. During that same period, they’ve also made time to host the area’s biggest concerts, welcoming icons such as Willie Nelson, Pat Benatar and Peter Frampton to the Port City.

What’s remained a constant through it all is the goal of making people happy through a wide variety of music, from classic rock to reggae to bluegrass. Today, 13 years after first hitting Wilmington’s airwaves with Rufus Thomas’ “Do the Funky Penguin,” followed by The Byrds’ “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” The Penguin is still providing that service to the Cape Fear area.

“Music makes the world go ’round for many,” said Kim Swinny (nee Czornij), host of “The Morning Chill.” “It’s nice that we can be that go-to station for people.”

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An eight-year veteran of WUIN, which is owned by Port City Daily’s parent company, Local Voice, Swinny said the new “Bob King Igloo” has been the biggest and best change this year.

“We love it,” Swinny said of their new home in The Atrium between Eastwood and Military Cutoff Roads. “It’s great, and we’re just down the road from the beach.”

“It’s a great place to work,” said Eric Miller, The Penguin’s midday deejay. “I love coming in here every day.”

Though the new digs are nice, for Miller, who is also the frontman of local band L Shape Lot, the highlight of the last year was opening for the legendary Willie Nelson.

“It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Miller. “That’s one of the great things The Penguin does, is get local bands to open their shows. We’re very grateful to have had that opportunity.”

Nelson and this year’s other big “gets” would not have been possible without Beau Gunn, WUIN’s program director, host of “The Afternoon Drive” and organizer of the station’s summer concert series. Gunn has been with the station since 2004, when it was owned by SeaComm Media (Local Voice bought it in 2011), and first went on the air in 2005. He’s seen many changes during his tenure, including a signal upgrade in 2010 when the station switched from 106.7 to 98.3 and the start of The Penguin’s online streaming in 2012.

98.3 FM The Penguin hosts Kim Czornij and Beau Gunn celebrate the music they love at a recent live concert. The station is celebrating 12 years on the air, a feat Gunn contributes to a shared love of music among listeners, deejays and performers alike. Courtesy photos.
98.3 FM The Penguin hosts Kim Czornij and Beau Gunn celebrate the music they love at a recent live concert. Courtesy photo.

“I absolutely love to be in a position to make the community happy through music, whether it’s a recording on the radio or live,” Gunn said. “I never, ever want to take that for granted.”

According to Gunn, by the time the season is over, The Penguin will have sponsored about 40 concerts at three venues: the Brooklyn Arts Center, the new Wilson Humanities and Fine Arts Center at Cape Fear Community College and Greenfield Lake Amphitheater.

True to form, the station will be celebrating its 13th birthday with a concert at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. The sold-out show will feature JJ Grey and Mofro, whom The Penguin hosts (which also include weekend host Michelle Daniel) jokingly call “the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater house band” due to their frequent visits to the venue. Earlier this week, the station presented Lyle Lovett and His Large Band at the Wilson Center, and rounding out the birthday week of concerts will be Donavon Frankenreiter on Saturday night at Greenfield Lake (tickets available here).

“We have a very special Penguin family,” Swinny said of the support the station and all its events have had throughout the years. “The power of music is so profound, and the strength it has to bring a community together is a great thing. We’re proud to be a part of that.”

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