The Nevada Independent

Your state. Your news. Your voice.

The Nevada Independent

In tiny Goldfield, community radio station helps inform rural Nevadans

Joey Lovato
Joey Lovato
David Calvert
David Calvert
Rurals
SHARE

Right off the main drag through downtown Goldfield, across from a supposedly haunted hotel and the occasional wild burro, there is a building straight out of a classic Western film. 

The sign on the door reads “Radio Goldfield KGFN 89.1” — home to the tiny community radio station that serves rural central Nevada and calls itself “The voice of the old West.”

Carl Brownfield is Radio Goldfield’s program director, and he spoke with The Nevada Independent in May about how community radio has served as a lifeline for some of Nevada's most remote communities — and a reflection of the hardscrabble individuals who call the area home.

Goldfield is a prime example of a boomtown. In the early 1900s, rich gold ore deposits were discovered in the area, leading to the town’s name. Rapid growth around the mining industry made Goldfield Nevada’s largest town at one point with more than 20,000 residents, and it was called home by legendary western figures including Virgil and Wyatt Earp. 

But limits to the gold veins quickly surfaced, and by 1910 the town had shrunk to a quarter of its gold rush population peak. In 1923, much of the town burned down in a fire, and Goldfield never saw a significant population boom again.

More than a century later, Goldfield’s population has shrunk to about 300. There is no store in town, cell service can be spotty and getting reliable internet in rural Nevada has been a struggle for years. 

But life continues in Goldfield. Last weekend, community members and visitors gathered to celebrate the annual Goldfield Days — a three-day celebration with parades, land auctions, costume contests and more — that celebrates the town's rich history.

The history of Radio Goldfield, as told by Brownfield, is convoluted. The station started as an unlicensed pirate station in 2006, broadcasting out of an old miner shack without a license from the Federal Communications Commission. But then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid helped the station acquire one, and after the station changed hands, he (with the financial help of a few friends) was able to build the broadcasting tower and give the station an official start in 2011.

The station produces 13 shows, many of which focus on music from bluegrass to rock and roll. But Brownfield says one of the most rewarding aspects is providing community news not only to the people of Goldfield, but also to surrounding rural communities including Beatty (located 66 miles south), Tonopah (26 miles north) and Hawthorne (130 miles northwest).

“We broadcast our community calendars for all four towns. The kind of announcements that are really important to us are school announcements, anything medical, we have the commodities program that comes through, and anything like COVID or (any other kind) of emergency,” he said.

Brownfield said that getting the community involved helps keep the station alive and provides more than just a resource for people to get information. As an example, he helped set up the high school in Beatty with audio equipment and programs so they could produce a weekly radio show called the “Beatty Buzz.”

Click here to listen to a clip of the student-produced show:

“I learned a lot from this,” Brownfield said. “If you can get locals or locals’ kids involved, they'll listen to you every day.”

Like many residents, Brownfield isn't native to Goldfield. Running the radio station is just the latest stop on a long journey that started in Downey, California and included a military tour in Vietnam, owning movie theaters in Minneapolis, raising four children and driving a taxi in Las Vegas for 21 years. 

But now Goldfield is home — Brownfield is now the secretary of the Masonic lodge, the vice president of the school board, vice president of the local chamber of commerce and, of course, the program director for the radio station.

He hopes that Radio Goldfield will be his legacy.

“If you listen to us for two days we'll be number one on your dial,” he said. “And that's the key. People say, ‘Well, I don't know why I love it, but I do.’”

Wild burros graze along US 95 in Goldfield.
A nonprofit, community radio station, KGFN 89.1 FM broadcasts its signal on terrestrial radio across much of the state, with listeners from Beatty to Hawthorne and online streaming worldwide.
The studio is located in the center of Goldfield on the north side of US 95 across from the historic Goldfield Hotel.
Brownfield, a retired cab driver from Las Vegas, recorded his first shows, "The Carl and Dusty Radio Boogie," in 2006 with co-host and friend, Dusty Fender.
"The Voice of The Old West," Radio Goldfield plays a mix of country, western, folk, roots and Americana music. In addition to local hosts like Carl, the station rebroadcasts established shows like the "Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot," "Calling All Cowboys" and "Ozark Highland Radio."
Founded in 1902, Goldfield was once the largest city in Nevada. Following the discovery of high-grade ore in 1904, the town ballooned to more than 20,000 residents. Today, around 300 people call it home.
Brownfield with Sherry Ann Huffman, host of Sherry's Classic Country.
The station started in April 2005 when Goldfield resident and former broadcaster Rod Moyes put some equipment together and began broadcasting on 106.3 FM. It operated as a pirate radio station until March 2009, when the Federal Communications Commission shut it down.
The station went dark for a few months, but with the help of then-U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the FCC issued a construction permit to Radio Goldfield Broadcasting Inc. By the end of summer, the signal was back and broadcasting with a new antenna atop Morena Ridge, a mountain north of downtown Goldfield.
In August 2010, Rod Moyes left Goldfield and the radio station went off-air again. That's when Carl and his wife, Patty, stepped up. They formed a board, got their FCC license and in March 2011, KGFN found a home on 89.1 FM.
Carl checks the station's broadcast tower atop Morena Ridge. In 2019, the station upgraded from a 150-watt antenna array to a tower with 1,000-watt output.
The antenna sits around 5,800 feet, overlooking the Goldfield townsite and a number of active and inactive mining operations and claims.
Carl and Patty inside their home in Goldfield, a remodeled Spartan trailer with an addition Carl built.
Carl and Patty's property features a couple of out buildings in addition to their home. This is Carl's studio, where he records weekly episodes of "Carlshopshow."
A 501(c)(3), Radio Goldfield relies on its listeners to fund the station. Supporters can sponsor segments, donate or become a station member by visiting KGFN.org.
SHARE
Comment Policy (updated 4/20/2021): Please keep your comments civil. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, use an excess of profanity, make verifiably false statements or are otherwise nasty. Comments that contain links must be approved by admin.
7455 Arroyo Crossing Pkwy Suite 220 Las Vegas, NV 89113
© 2021 THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT
Privacy PolicyRSSContactJobsSupport our Work
The Nevada Independent is a project of: Nevada News Bureau, Inc. | Federal Tax ID 27-3192716