Picnic Pictures


The History of the SBE Denver Picnic

by Fred Baumgartner


Itís time for the SBE Picnic 1001... or if youíre less binary oriented, the 9th annual "picnic on the porch."

The first "real" picnic was Peter Douglasís idea, and was held at TCIís Morrison uplink facility. In those days, Prime Star had just began operation as a digital Ku-band thing, and Peter had just left KWGN-TV2 to run TCIís Orchard-5 origination facility, cranking out a mind boggling two channels; Fox Net and the Catholic channel that eventually became Odyssey. Morrison also uplinked the "Denver-5" and General Instruments "Video Cipher" encryption for analog video had pretty much taken hold. Charlie Ergan was still putting in 3-meter TVRO antennas, and MTS stereo was still new and made Star Trek sound so good.

1993 Picnic Picture 1

The earliest pictures I could find are of the 2nd Picnic in 1993 I donít think I had a camera unpacked in 1992. I believe I was living at the Burnsley downtown and just getting into KDVR. Craig Roberts, Joel Humke, me (I have no idea where the tie came from), Paul Montoya, Daren McMullin, Eric Schultz, Larry Ellis, John Van Milligan, Peter was in New York or Hong Kong or somewhere...

Peter talked TCI into underwriting the event, which they and he would do until TCI ceased to exist in 1999. Peter/Burst and now Peter/Broadcast Technical Services pretty much every year has underwritten the event, last year with support from Rome and Lawrence at RIA.

This year, we asked more people to pitch in. Just for reference, this event usually runs just shy of $900.00. Encoda (was Columbine JDS), kicked in big time to get it rolling, RIA (Rome and Lawrence) Peterís Broadcast Technical Services, Burst Communications, KBCO Radio, Itelco USA, Broadband Design and Engineering, Leitch Corporation, GeckoGom.

1993 Picnic Picture 2

1993 Continued... I can no longer recognize Montoya, but Eric Schultzís backside, Mikey and John Renken (He went to WAVY, Norfolk, and now is in Madison Wi) and Chuck Kirkebyís backside.

The KWGN site became available after the Quonset hut, that was the first transmitter building, was removed and the foundation became the larger "porch" and space for area for the "new" and third transmitter building. The first rig, a Dumont, required that someone stay with her at all times, and some of the older KWGN staff recall having spent the nights above the rig on a deck built for storage and sleeping, and well insulated with asbestos. The Dumont was replaced by an F-line, dual cabinet rig, and eventually, Peterís "new" solid-state rig. Likewise, the 4-bay batwing antenna on the 400-foot tower is antenna three. The shorter tower with the 6-bay batwing was the Dumontís antenna and still serves as a backup, though it has more gain than the full-time antenna, so TPO needs to drop when in use. The first antenna was a "bed-spring." I saw one used for receiving when I was a kid, and marveled at the appropriate name, but havenít heard of them since... however a Web search brings us to... Flight B of the 15th Radio Squadron, Mobile, at Clark AFB, Philippines, installed the Bedspring Antenna in April 1954. Bedspring was the nickname for the antenna manufactured locally from bedsprings.

Bedspring Antenna

Actually, outside of being much smaller, I imagine the original TV-2 antenna looked something like this. Supposedly, it was made of 2x4s and some years ago, while wandering and looking for signs of the tramway that served the mountain at the turn of the century, but finding an armored telephone cable instead, we did wander upon some rotting 2x4s and wire. It would seem to support the rumor.

In any case, in 1993, the TV-2 site became available again, and remained such, however each year, we are asked to hold off settling on the site until they confirm whether or not that DTV project will get in the way. Courtesy Jeffco, there is little likelihood that Denver will ever see full tilt boogie digital broadcasts. I see a higher power at work here.

Weíve had rain, wind, weíve (OK, I) even screwed up one year and we had two dates, giving some an excuse to come to mountain twice in one week... without a broken transmitter. We took pictures of planes landing at Stapleton with long lenses, we taped the "tower video" in the 80s, played with lasers, two way radios (some that wonít even transmit when up there), and the radio in my first Pontiac emitted sync buzz... with the radio and car off... all at this religious and historic site.

Iíve seen the sun rise after putting a rig back together, my only pole peg fire, ran KHOW-FM off of a dial up line for a day, and pulled a drunk teenage chick out of a car after she drove through the fence. And most mysteriously, once, took the Golden phone system out by having both FM rigs and antennas spitting out a non-synchronous 100 Kw each. Clearly the picnic grounds are sacred. I would think too, that when KOA moved from Tower Road and Colfax to Parker, that made the TV-2 site the oldest site in town. Long live the picnic.