A 30-year run or a spot in the Colorado Music Hall of Fame weren’t accolades Nick and Helen Forster ever aspired to—not specifically, anyway—when they started eTown in 1991. The married duo simply wanted to express their own connection to the Colorado music scene and passion for sustainability; hopefully, other folks would respond to the radio show, which would feature a mix of musical performances from the likes of the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir and conversations with prominent environmentalists, activists, and organizers.
“We put our heart and soul into it,” Nick says. “We roll up the piece of paper and stick it in the bottle. Put a cork in and throw it into the ocean in hopes that somewhere, someday, somebody is going to find it. Read the message and get some joy, some benefit out of it.”
Message received: Today, eTown’s nationally syndicated radio show (and podcasts)—recorded from its eTown Hall performance hall and recording studio in a converted Boulder church—is broadcast on KBCO 97.3 FM and KGNU 1390 AM in Denver, 38 other stations across Colorado, hundreds more nationwide, and a few internationally. On Earth Day, eTown will be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
To celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary this year and its election to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, Nick and Helen will host a virtual “b’Earthday Celebration” on Thursday, April 22—Earth Day. The livestreamed celebration will feature music and conversation with artists including Lyle Lovett, Bob Weir, and Black Pumas. Former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth and U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse will speak about the issues that have long made up the eTown ethos: sustainability, energy efficiency, climate change, and social responsibility.
Though environmentalism is a well-covered topic today, that wasn’t the case when eTown launched, Helen says. The Earth Day fever of the 1970s had waned; by the 1990s, it seemed environmentalism was only being discussed on that one day each year. Nick was a member of the bluegrass band Hot Rize, and Helen was a local singer, radio host, and co-owner/producer of the Telluride Bluegrass Festival (where the pair met). But they were also passionate about the environment. They decided to bring their two loves together to facilitate conversations about sustainability and social responsibility.
“For us, it’s not about the direct, immediate impact of what we do as much as it’s being passionate about the concept, about our mission, and about the methodology,” Nick says. “And we just keep making shows.”
“And I have to say that in some ways, it seems like we’ve been doing it forever, and in other ways I turn around and go ‘Really? Is it really 30 years?’” Helen adds.
It is. And before the organization’s official birthday party on Thursday, we asked Nick and Helen to share some of their favorite eTown images from the past three decades.