Mainstreet Radio began in 1987, with an introductory member staff of Rachel Reabe, John Biewen and Leif Enger, whose mission was reporting from rural Minnesota to all of Minnesota. It first appeared as part of MPR Journal and Morning Edition broadcasts, providing both long and short form news features.
In the years following, Mainstreet Radio expanded both in reporter contributions and programming. Starting in the 1990’s, Mainstreet Radio presented a monthly two-hour special, focusing on rural issues. Important regional topics included the environment, economy, and health matters outside the Twin Cities metro.
Mainstreet Radio has won numerous journalistic awards, including for the programs “Meth in Minnesota” and “The Rural School Challenge.”
April 29, 1988 - A special Mainstreet Radio call-in program from KSJR, in central Minnesota. Program highlights the concern over problems of rural school districts. Rachel Reabe interviews Irvin Bjerga of Motley, Minnesota; Kathy Berger of Mountain Iron-Buhl School District; and Congressman Glen Anderson of Bellingham, Minnesota.
September 8, 1989 - MPR’s John Biewen presents “Dancing on Beat: Portrait of a Reservation Family,” an inside look at the lives of a Native American family on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. Following documentary, MPR’s Bob Potter interviews Mike Bongo, director of American Indian OIC in Minneapolis, about his thoughts about documentary.
December 27, 1989 - A Mainstreet Radio special from southwestern Minnesota town of Madison. MPR’s John Biewen presents a documentary entitled, "We're Not Dying," which highlights how the town survived the 1980’s farm crisis. Across the farm belt, the 1980s were the most difficult decade in a half-century. One farm in ten went out of business in the decade. Farming towns suffered as well, losing population, schools, and businesses. Madison was no exception to those challenges. Program includes various interviews of residents, who share their memories on the upheavals of crisis and thoughts on their uncertain future.
October 10, 1990 - Jon Grunseth, I-R candidate for governor; and Rudy Perpich, incumbent DFL governor of Minnesota, speaking to the endorsing convention of the SHOW Minnesota Education Association. Grunseth and Perpich shared their differing views on education issues and answered audience questions. Program closes with brief Mainstreet Radio: Red Lake Falls School report from MPR’s Leif Enger. Enger examines Global Studies Institute high school, which focuses exclusively on “global studies.” Report includes various interviews of individuals at the school.
October 29, 1990 - On this Mainstreet Radio program, MPR’s Leif Enger reports on the attempts for a truce on the border of the BWCA since the 1978 Boundary Waters Wilderness Act. The progam includes numerous interviews with local Ely residents who discuss the ecomonic impact the 1978 Boundary Waters Wilderness Act, and individuals of the environmental community on the fight to preserve the BWCA.
April 12, 1993 - A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from the Grand Casino Mille Lacs near Garrison, Minnesota. Program highlights American Indian casinos; what some term as the “New Buffalo.” MPR’s Catherine Winter interviews Leonard Prescott, chairman of Little Six Inc.; Charlie Berg, state senator and chair of Minnesota Senate Gaming Regulation Committee; Bernita Churchill, elected legislative official for Mille Lacs Tribe; and Doug Twait, commission of public affairs for Chippewa Tribe. Group discusses benefits, concerns, and issues of gambling in Minnesota. Program also includes various other segments. MPR’s Mark Steil reports on how casinos came to be in the state. MPR’s Dan Olson joins a gambling group on a bus trip to Jackpot Junction. MPR’s Rachel Reabe interviews individuals in the Mille Lacs casino. MPR’s Leif Enger reports on outside firms managing casinos. MPR’s John Biewen reports on spreading benefits to Native Americans in the cities. This is part 1 of 2 in this special broadcast.
April 12, 1993 - A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from the Grand Casino Mille Lacs near Garrison, Minnesota. Continued program highlights American Indian casinos; what some term as the “New Buffalo.” MPR’s Catherine Winter interviews Leonard Prescott, chairman of Little Six Inc.; Charlie Berg, state senator and chair of Minnesota Senate Gaming Regulation Committee; Bernita Churchill, elected legislative official for Mille Lacs Tribe; and Doug Twait, commission of public affairs for Chippewa Tribe. Group discusses benefits, concerns, and issues of gambling in Minnesota. They also answer listener questions. Program also includes various other segments. MPR’s Mark Steil reports on how casinos came to be in the state. MPR’s Rachel Reabe interviews individuals in the Mille Lacs casino. MPR’s Leif Enger and John Biewen report on investments and changes seen on reservation and with its tribe members. This is part 2 of 2 in this special broadcast.
September 16, 1993 - On this Mainstreet Radio segment, MPR’s Catherine Winter reports on Father Frank Perkovich, also known as the Polka Priest, and Joe Cvek & the Polka Mass-ters.
December 31, 1993 - On this Mainstreet Radio segment, MPR’s Leif Enger interviews Joel Hanson, member of the Minneapolis Christian rock group PFR (formally known as Pray For Rain).
January 26, 1994 - A Mainstreet Radio special broadcast from City Hall in Nashwauk. Program highlights the history, current state, and future of mining in the Iron Range. MPR’s Catherine Winter and Martin Kaste present various reports and interviews from residents, miners, mining companies, and politicians. Following reports, a panel discussion with Jim Gustafson, commissioner of IRRRB; Frederic “Fritz” Knaak, former I-R state representative in White Bear Lake; and Tom Rukavina, DFL state representative from Virginia, who talk about the future of area. The panel also answers audience and listener questions.