It seems to me that folks hereabouts should be forewarned that in a few weeks we will be subjected to what might be called an “invasion.” Oh, it won’t be by zombies, aliens from outer space, or locusts – nope, it’s going to be by very friendly “Hams”, known more formally as “amateur radio operators.” Yep, thousands of Hams are expected to converge on our county fairgrounds for a three day event known as the “Hamvention.”
Okay, what’s going on? Well, for a number of years the Dayton amateur radio organization (known as DARA) has sponsored the largest assemblage of amateur radio operators in the world. This gathering, which became known as “Hamvention,” was held at the Hara Arena, but that venue has now closed so Hamvention needed a new home. After investigating a number of possibilities and with the cooperation and concurrence of local officials, DARA selected our fairgrounds as the new site for Hamvention. (Note: our county has amateur radio organizations in Bellbrook, Fairborn, and Xenia with a total membership of several hundred Hams, many of whom are also members of DARA. All three local groups work with DARA in making Hamvention a success.)
So how large is Hamvention? Well, in past years attendance has been somewhere in the vicinity of 25,000 – give or take a few thousand. Hamvention has become THE event for Hams to attend, not only from the U S but from all over the world. It’s truly international-level – almost like a pilgrimage for Hams. I can personally attest to meeting fellow Hams from a number of countries at Hamvention – and noting how they were thrilled at being there. As for attendance this year, that’s a bit of a question because of the change in venue, but we can still expect thousands of folks visiting our county, many for the first time. But who are these people?
Hams likely represent one the most remarkable cross sections of folks anywhere – men, women, youngsters, retirees, physicians, office workers, lawyers, truck drivers, stay-at-home housewives, students, farmers, ranchers, engineers, construction workers, big city residents, small town folks, first responders – you name it. Yep, Hams represent diversity in education, race, ethnicity, gender, language, country, religion, marital status, and in just about any other way you can think of. But all Hams have something in common – something that sets them apart.
Every Ham must have a license issued by an agency of their country – in our case it’s the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). (Interestingly enough only two hobbies require a federal license – one to become a Ham and the other to become a private airplane pilot. Both require testing and both have different “classes” of licensing that permit the holder to operate at increasingly higher levels of expertise.) Anyway, every Ham has a license and an individual “call sign” issued along with the license – which brings us to another topic.
If Hams are such ordinary people, is there any way to recognize them? Well, Hams sometimes get vanity vehicle license plates with their call sign (referred to by Hams as simply their “call”) on them. These “calls” are a combination of letters and numbers such as “K8YDP” and so are fairly distinctive. Hams also often wear jackets, shirts, or caps displaying their first name and call while at Hamvention or working on a public service project – such as supporting the Air Force marathon.
How about the impact of the Hamvention other than bringing lotsa dollars into our county? Well, according to what I’ve heard from friends, lodging within a radius of 25-30 miles is sold out. Restaurants and fast food eateries in the entire area will likely be exceptionably busy. Traffic in the vicinity of the fairgrounds and the streets and roads leading into the area will be crowded but local officials, law enforcement officers, and DARA planners have been working on how to keep things moving. The results include using a multitude of volunteer traffic wardens, off-site parking and transportation to the fairgrounds, and using Ham radio to provide visitors with traffic information and directions. Quite an effort in cooperation, huh.
Well, there will be lots more information coming out about this event in the next couple of weeks, but I figured I’d give a quick “heads up” just in case the word hasn’t gotten out to the general public. You know, this is a great opportunity for our county – it’s not every day we can host a world-level event such Hamvention. It’s kinda up to us how we meet and greet these visitors – and whether they will feel welcome enough to return. At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, an area resident and Ham, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.