PEORIA — There was a time when Randy Rundle viewed Thanksgiving as the tipping point into the Christmas season, which meant that broadcasting the holly and jolly of Christmas music on Mix 106.9 soon followed.
But Rundle, a 27-year veteran of the radio station, now sees the shift toward Christmas music much sooner — the station has received several daily inquiries asking when the Christmas music will begin ever since October ended.
"Now we see the tipping point as Halloween," said Rundle, the content director for Mix 106.9.
With that in mind, Rundle revealed that Mix 106.9 will convert to solely broadcasting Christmas music starting at 5 p.m. Friday, which is earlier than last year's beginning point on Nov. 23. Though the transition at 106.9 generally occurs around Thanksgiving, Rundle said there's not an exact science when it comes to starting up the holiday tunes; it's more based on observation and feeling.
"It seems like Christmas is being embraced earlier this year," Rundle said.
Retailers always prefer to get into the Christmas mood early, Rundle observed, but he's personally seen the festive signs across the area, from decorations festooning a house to Christmas trees lit up in windows. Rundle didn't have a clear reason for why that was, but he offered a theory. In a year mired by negativity seemingly everywhere, Rundle believes that people are reaching for a little relief from the present day reality and dipping into the Christmas spirit in order to do so.
Whatever the case, central Illinois will be tuning in to 106.9 for its Christmas music fix. The traditional tunes — from the likes of Bing Crosby, Brenda Lee and Nat King Cole — will be in regular rotation. But Rundle cited Nielsen research that suggests one of the largest audience groups seeking out Christmas music is millennials. The station will also intersperse modern holiday songs, including those from the vocal group Pentatonix, the soulful crooner Michael Buble and pop stars like Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift.
Other local radio stations will also get in on the festive music act. WBNH Radio 88.5, out of Pekin, increases its Christmas music airplay starting the day after Thanksgiving, according to station operations manager Keith Lang. A third of the songs will be of the holiday variety the first week, then two-thirds the second week until it's wall-to-wall from Dec. 11 through Christmas Day. WCIC-FM 91.5, a Christian radio station, will play plenty of Christmas music from Thanksgiving through the holiday as well.
For Rundle, this season marks a dozen years since the station moved from a sprinkle of Christmas music to a 24/7 schedule of holiday tunes. How does the constant stream of mistletoe, reindeer and snowmen affect the psyche of a disc jockey? There's good cheer when the music starts up again, and also when it ends.
"It's always a refreshing change when we switch over," Rundle said before adding, with a laugh, "It's a nice change when we begin the Christmas music, just as it's a nice change when the Christmas music ends."
Thomas Bruch can be reached at 686-3262 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasBruch.