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CHAMPAIGN — Twenty-four years ago, then-WIXY general manager Dale Weber brought Steve Holstein to the station and turned on the microphone.

“I just got an incredible opportunity to do a morning show on a great radio station in Champaign,” Holstein said.

Last Friday, the popular radio radio host was told his contract had been terminated by Illini Radio Group and its parent company, Saga Communications.

His “Holstein and Company Morning Show,” including the cow-head logo, faded without a send-off.

Asked for an interview Wednesday, current WIXY general manager Brian Green responded by email.

“I don’t have any comments for you regarding Steve, other than we wish him the absolute best,” Green wrote.

Holstein said it was a financial decision.

“These are tough economic times, and media is not an easy field to be in at all,” Holstein said. “The pandemic has certainly not helped anyone, especially media. That was their decision, and I accept it. I’m grateful for 24 years.

“It’s rare that somebody has the opportunity to host any show for that long and have the level of success that we had. Am I sad that it ended? Yes. Am I sad the way it ended? Sure. I wish I could have had another month to reminisce and say goodbye.”

Holstein said he wasn’t offered a chance to stay with the station at a reduced pay rate.

The termination decision prompted Holstein to send out a release explaining to listeners why he is no longer on the air.

“I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to the awesome WIXY listeners,” Holstein said. “So often, somebody will leave the air whether it’s TV or radio, and you won’t know what happened. I just felt like I owed it to the listeners to get the word out.”

Holstein’s release included quotes from community leaders.

Sue Grey, CEO of United Way of Champaign, said: “Working with Steve over the years has been great. His support and dedication to making our community a better place were evident in his work at the studio as well as his volunteer service to many local nonprofits. His voice on the air will truly be missed!”

Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen said: “It’s been a pleasure to work with Steve in my capacity as mayor. Although being on ‘Holstein & Company’ was always fun, when I was on the air with Steve, he always took the time to ask important questions. I know I join the rest of Champaign when I say that his voice will be greatly missed as we start each day.”

Holstein’s fans reached out on Facebook, offering him a string of well-wishes.

“Everybody’s been really supportive and shocked,” he said.

Holstein, 54, grew up in St. Louis, rooting for the Cardinals and listening to KMOX and other stations.

“I really loved radio,” Holstein said.

After high school, he went to Broadcast Center, a trade school in St. Louis.

The school placed its graduates at spots in the area. Holstein’s first job was at a country station in McLeansboro.

“I fell in love with country,” Holstein said. “I had never listened to it in my life.

“I went in with an open mind.”

He bounced around stations in the Midwest and East, moving as far away as Utica, N.Y.

But he wanted to return to the Midwest. WIXY gave him that chance.

Once in Champaign, Holstein got involved in the community. He created and co-hosted the Illinois Marathon’s “Mile Zero” prerace show. He serves on the board of directors for the Stephens Family YMCA and is a longtime part of the CU 1 to 1 Mentoring program.

He worked for years on “Holstein and Company” with co-hosts Melissa Anfield and Andy Roberts, who left the show in 2019.

Anfield remains a co-host of the show.

“I’m so grateful that they are keeping her,” Holstein said. “She is talented and funny and honest. It was a wise move to keep her.”

Holstein and wife Deb plan to stay in Champaign.

“We like Illinois and we love Champaign-Urbana,” he said.

Holstein is open to returning to the air at another station.

“You never know, some radio station in Key West, Florida, might give me a call,” he said.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-393-8248 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

College Football Reporter/Columnist

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is asmussen@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).