We witnessed, a few minutes ago, the closing of the 76th annual Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park Hamfest. This hamfest was most like a very laid-back rally, not so much like any hamfest we’ve attended. The tempo and mood was mellow, not focused upon finding the best source and price on gear, throughout the weekend. This weekend’s greatest opportunity was meeting and talking with other folks.
Absent also was the stimulating, yet somewhat tiresome, browsing past dozens or hundreds of tailgaters’ tables of electronics. Instead we saw perhaps one dozen tailgaters with the normal sorts of electronics gear and old books. Since the hamfest did not designate a special section just for vendors and tailgaters, the few tailgaters were mixed in amidst all the RVs. And it felt just right.
Browsing constituted, as much as anything, walking about and socializing. Ask a ham about his antenna or his radio, or her truck or RV. And sit down and get to know each other a while. The hamfest was large enough to fill the pavilion, and beyond, at mealtimes yet the seminars and tailgaters operated at a relaxed pace.
Glacier Meadows RV Park rented sites this week to hamfest attendees only, and we nearly filled the park. All sites with water or electric rented early through reservations. Most of us parked in the meadow with plenty of space and sunshine. Our weather was ideal with cool evenings, warm and dry days, and steady afternoon breezes.
We lucked out and were able to face our RV to the north. Our large curb-side awning shaded the camper throughout the mornings and provided us a shady patio all afternoon. We were less lucky, sunshine-wise, for having lost, just one week ago, our solar charge controller. So much sunshine and nowhere to put it.
All this sunshine is raining upon our two 125-watt solar panels and coursing through the copper wires down to our connectors. Alas, the stuff is still pouring out on the ground for lack of a charge controller to translate the potential power into something our batteries can store.
We’re hopeful, though, we’ll pick up our refurbished charge controller at the post office tomorrow. We called the manufacturer two days ago and he advised he had already repaired it and shipped it to us. Our forwarded mail and the charge controller both, hopefully, await our pickup tomorrow. We’ll see.
The temporary loss of our solar charging has not been any problem, though, for our batteries or us. Our batteries have maintained greater than 12.2 volts since we arrived two days ago, Friday early afternoon. We’re intermittently using our water pump, reading lights, mobile hf/vhf/uhf radio. Our refrigerator and natural gas detector and other phantom loads have run more or less continuously.
This is our first-ever run-down test for these two 6-volt golf cart batteries. We very rarely disconnect the feed line from our solar panels to the charge controller. We almost always, when dry-camping for more than two days, set up and connect our generator to the RV’s 110v electrical input to allow occasional re-charging of the batteries. And, our generator is sitting alongside the camper.
We have not connected the power cord to the RV, instead periodically noting the batteries nominal voltage. It helps we have had such nice warm days which excite the batteries a bit, and very late daylight each day. And we haven’t done after-dark cooking to require lighting. We are using the batteries very lightly, so this isn’t too much a test. Nonetheless, we’re enjoying the quiet boycott of our generator.
The potluck yesterday evening, and the hamburger lunch earlier yesterday, were NOT characterized by a bunch of RVers showing up an hour early to eat. We arrived for the potluck at the scheduled hour and were surprised we were among the first ones to bring our food to the table. The hamburger lunch did kick off a little early to accommodate the large number of attendees already gathered nearby for other activities.
There were not many activities in conflicting times, so it was easy to attend the seminars and still enjoy enough time on our own or for socializing and learning. A ham also, Debbie chose not to register and participate in the seminars or meetings. This is the most expensive hamfest we’ve attended, at $28.00. Only Hamvention (Dayton) was close, at $25.00 for walk-in tickets.
And the price is worthwhile to us. We like helping support a long-running hamfest for this very isolated part of the United States and Canada. We tire of hearing of activities, events, and membership organizations cancelled or terminated from apathy. When the hamfests disappear we all lose the option to stop and shop, browse and barter, talk and trade.
The nearest large amateur radio vendor might be 600 miles distant, in Portland, OR (HRO). No equipment vendors showed this year, saving some of our money (for now). Last year they showed and next year vendors will show up, and they support the hamfest every year through donated prizes and discounts to attendees. One supporter, QRZ.com, drove approximately 1,400 miles to attend this hamfest.
We enjoyed meeting and visiting with Fred AA7BQ and Robin. They are a lot of fun to talk with and have interesting stories. They showed us their new old motor home, a gorgeous behemoth (at least by our standards), in which they are representing QRZ.com at hamfests across the nation this summer and fall. If you’re in the neighborhood and can make it to the Shelby Hamfest (in Dallas, NC) on Labor Day weekend, take a minute to say hi to these friendly folks from Phoenix.
A ham who has attended this hamfest since 1937 won the pre-registration Grand Prize, a new Yaesu FT-2900r mobile. It seems fitting, for someone who has supported this hamfest for so many years, to win the dandy mil-spec Yaesu amateur radio. The most special prize, the 1937 unopened beer bottle, was awarded through a hotly contested special auction. Two bidders were deadlocked for the honor of 2010-2011 custodian of this special bottle, and the honor was decided through paper-rock-scissors.
We survived this enjoyable hamfest and people are pulling out in droves and calling out, “this is VE7xxx, mobile” as they hit Highway 2. Other hams chime back, “Safe travels, VE7xxx, from W7xx” and the same from several other hams from above and below the 49th parallel. We’ll hope to visit this hamfest when we’re again in this part of the country at the right time.
And now we are sitting on the veranda at the Glacier Park Lodge. This 161-room lodge, built in 1912, is a grand place to visit. We visited two years ago and are just as excited to see it this time. The main lodge is magnificent, with tremendous tree-trunk posts and beams. The views from the veranda are great, looking northwest at Dancing Lady Mountain. The mountains still have snow on them, just in a few north-side spots. What a great part of our great country!
We hope this is, for us, one of many encounters with the Oldest Hamfest in the World. As much as we like checking out new radio and antenna gear and parts, we both enjoyed more this most sociable and friendly Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park hamfest.
See You Down The Road,