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Dave Roepke, Published November 06 2008

Station’s early Christmas leap stirs inner Grinch

No, you didn’t go to bed on Halloween night and accidentally sleep through the month of November.

The Eagle 106.9 FM, as it did last year around this time, is now playing Christmas music 24 hours a day. The switch was at midnight on Halloween, as the costumed hordes were still prancing and dancing downtown along the sidewalk that runs in front of oldies station’s Broadway studio.

This wasn’t the first salvo in the ever-heavier battle to make Christmas season as long as summer. Retail stores such as Kmart and Target have had their trees and Santa stuff on display for weeks, tucked back in the stores’ corners.

An online radio station database – 10,000 Watts – that tracks stations going Christmas-around-the-clock had the list at 16 on Wednesday, including The Eagle.

Paul Bougie, director of broadcast operations for the company that owns The Eagle, says he has been getting great feedback on the move.

“Lots of people calling say they love it, love it, love it, love it, love it,” says Bougie, who is also half of the station’s morning-show team. It makes people happy, he says.

A guy who hit me up for some cash outside of the studio on Tuesday concurred, stopping his pitch about being an out-of-work heating and air conditioning guy mid-sentence to vigorously nod his head and say, “Yeah, right there,” as “Jingle Bell Rock” played out on the street.

Maybe I’m just Ebenezer Grinch, but jumping the gun on decking the halls makes me neither holly nor jolly. I do not feel the fierce urgency of Noel. Hearing Christmas music at any point before tucking into Thanksgiving leftovers does nothing for me.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Early carols actively irritate me. As a teenager, I’d hide the Christmas music from my little sister until the turkey was on the table. One holiday at a time didn’t seem like too much to ask.

Bougie says The Eagle has received a few calls from like-minded souls, though they’ve kept it polite by simply pointing out that it’s not Thanksgiving yet. He thinks people are pining for Christmas this year because of the stress of the election and the economy.

“Everybody seems like they’re in a mood,” he says.

But here’s the thing. If we let its creep go unchecked, soon Christmas won’t be the best time of the year. It will be the entire year. Just take a look at the math.

Playing 55 days of Christmas music – Nov. 1 to Dec. 25 – means the station will have what’s not exactly a deep stable of songs in constant rotation for 15 percent of the year. To help get your head around that, think about it this way – if The Eagle played Christmas music as long after the holiday as it does before it, the merriment wouldn’t end until four days after Valentine’s Day.

The worst part is I actually enjoy Christmas music during the season. Compared to the garish color scheme, the rabid consumerism and eggnog, the music is one of the best parts of the holiday.

I hope it stays that way, but hearing that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas on Halloween night makes me wonder if that’s possible.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535 or droep@forumcomm.com