Yo! Canada

Radio broadcasts in South Florida help keep visiting Canadians in touch with their snowy homeland.

On Hollywood’s Broadwalk, the Labatts beer is cold, the poutine is hot and the barely clad bodies, sautéing in the sun, are abundant. This is Florida in the winter and – mon dieu – this is heaven.

But what’s that voice, cutting thought the warmth like a blast of arctic air?

“Boy, oh boy, was it cold across Canada last night,” the voice booms from a radio. “Sixteen below, and this morning I see ice on my studio window.”

For 5.5 minutes – about the time it takes to eat a creme glacee before it melts in the Florida sun- anyone within listening range can hear Canadian broadcaster Prior Smith, spewing out Canadian News from his ice-covered country. He’s in his home studio 2,000 miles north, near Toronto, overlooking a frozen lake. Brrrrrrrrrr. No Bikini weather there, and the only thing close to naked are the leafless maple trees……

Canadian broadcaster is Prior Smith offers headline news interspersed with plugs for Florida attractions. (“Visit Busch Gardens and get a $4 Canadian discount.”) Following in the footsteps of Dave Price, who died at 75 in 1978, Smith started with four radio stations and is now heard on 27 stations throughout Florida…….

Smith draws from a sizable statewide audience and 2.5 million Canadians, and his local listeners are loyal.

“If we have a technical transmission problem, they call and ask what happened,” says Dolores King, general manager of WFTL, which has broadcast Smith’s program for more than a decade. “They want to know, “Are you going to fix it and when?”

Smith visits Broward every year to remind radio stations from Marco Island to Melbourne that a face goes with his voice. And never in 16 years of visits has he played a game of golf or splashed in the ocean. His dress is always a coat and tie.

“When I am in Florida, I’m working. It’s business,” says Smith, who broadcasts in chinos, rugby shirt and moccasins, his 12-year-old Irish setter at his feet.

Smith knows that having a feel for the community he’s serving is important, and while Canadians say Americans know little about their neighbor to the north, Smith is surefooted on foreign soil……

“Shortly before Dave died he called me one day out of the blue and said he was tickled pink I was doing what I was doing.” says Smith, who had never met the man. “I like to think I’m keeping the tradition alive.”

Liz Doup – Excerpts from The Miami Herald