Tag Archives: Hamfest

Oldest (continuously running) Hamfest in the World

Parading The Colors opened the W7G hamfest

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.

Just enough tailgating to lure us out awhile and meet with each other

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.

We could count on finding groups of hams ready to talk

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.

A great hamfest site and a nice campground

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 had the luxury of picking the compass orientation of our parking

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 Only burgers in town were also excellent

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.

Beams and dipoles for special event stn W7G in bkgrd

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.

The biggest ham shack on the grounds this weekend

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.

Construction on this grand old Lodge started 100 years ago

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,

Jim and Debbie
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr

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Hamcation 2010 with RV Service Net

We spent last week at Orlando Amateur Radio Club’s annual hamfest, Hamcation. Our third year attending, we knew the ropes and easily relaxed into the experience. We didn’t know there would be record attendance by our group, the RV Service Net hams.

The past couple of years RV Service Net has had around 25 to 30 RVs attending this large hamfest. This year we had at least 49 rigs — wow! We arrived at the gates before 1130 hours on Wednesday two days before the hamfest would begin. And we were easily 100 back in the RVers queue.

In front of us were many tailgaters or flea market sales folks as well as vendors who find RV travel perfect for managing their work at the shows. We sympathize with the vendors who move from hamfest to hamfest, displaying and showing their products for two or three days at each whistlestop. They can sleep in their own bed every night only if they are RVers, whereas the hotel/motel crowd are in a different room and bed every week or two.

The gates opened on time and parking was handled smoothly and expertly by our group’s own AA8Q Jack Mitchell. Again this year the RV Service Net folks had RV parking at Lake Lawne’s edge, a pretty site within 300 yards of the indoor sales areas but out of the main flow of traffic. Our group had so many rigs parked we established our own small community.

This year, our third, we were less the newcomers. We have met many of these hams in our previous two visits to Hamcation or at Hamvention in Dayton last year. Some we only have met on the air, talking on the RV Service Net’s daily 40 meter morning nets. It was nice to meet them in person and have face-to-face conversations with everyone.

You might wonder, why were we there? One compelling reason is for Jim to represent the Club’s leadership, as upcoming President. He has spent the past two years learning the ropes as 2nd, and 1st VP, and this summer he may become President. One of the primary duties is attendance at Hamcation and at the WBCCI (Airstream owners association) annual rally.

But an even better reason for attending Hamcation is because this is a really fun hamfest for us. This is the largest hamfest in the southeast U.S. and enjoys a large number of new equipment vendors. There are typically over a hundred tailgaters outdoors selling a tremendous variety of gear, new and used, from their tables or trailers or tailgates.

Best of all is the Orlando, Fl, weather and very enjoyable camaraderie of the RV Service Net’s members. This year we enjoyed the crowd a lot. The weather left a lot to be desired, it wasn’t warm at all. Cool weather seems hardly worth complaining about when every state in the Union was receiving snow. But heck, we’re in Florida and it’s supposed to be warm and sunny.

It was cold and rainy all day Friday until sunset. Really cold and rainy. Friday was the opening day of the hamfest so a lot of us braved the rain and were in the buildings when the clouds just burst and poured down the rain. Stuck inside with our credit cards and all these great vendors selling ham radio gear and accessories. Darn, what are we going to do now?

We made the best of it, of course. The vendors give away waterproof shopping bags, so we won’t need to worry with keeping our purchases dry. Our goal for the opening day, though, was scoping out which vendors were present and what parts of their product line they brought. They cannot bring everything to every show, so we browse and scheme what we’ll do without and what we need to buy.

This decision process is crucial, a real challenge for us. Hamcation represents our one golden opportunity for the year to stimulate the economy and supply our electronics gear needs for the next year. Or at least until the next hamfest. Jim will have to make do awhile with whatever he can secure while we’re here. He stocks up on wire and connectors of several sizes, coax cable and ends, various small fittings for the radios or antennae, and sometimes solder, tape, and even rivets. We take the most time poring over the variety of new radios, antennae, software, and amplifiers.

Deb browses cool electronics stuff at Hamcation

This isn’t just for the vendors’ benefit, but is how we learn about so much of the equipment. We can look at pictures and read descriptions all year long. We can sometimes find a amateur radio store but not often. The hamfest gives us a great opportunity to browse, touch the gear, ask questions about this feature or that, and try to assimilate all this information into a shape we can remember.

Ham station in our house

We have enough amateur radio gear for our rolling house and our truck. We have long distance and middle distance and short range capabilities on the ham bands. We have a very nifty antenna mounted atop the Airstream that folds down electrically for travel or to avoid lightning or falling limbs. We have good antennae to allow one of us in the truck to call the other in the trailer when we are anywhere from a block away to up to 50 miles separated.

HF antenna on our roof

What else do we need? Well, it’s not so much need, is it? Do you need jewelry? Do you need a good looking truck? Of course not, it’s more about necessity! You may have heard before, “When all else fails, Ham Radio works”. This is more than a slogan, it represents a truth demonstrated many times every year across the continent. We are just a small couple of cogs in this wide network of ham radio operators who may, some day, provide essential relaying of communications into or out of an area stricken with loss of normal communications.

So it’s our duty to keep on buying really cool radio gear and learning how to use it so we can help you. You see, it’s not really about us at all, it’s all about serving you. Wow, I’m getting into this, I think I should take a break and go browse a ham radio equipment catalog and see how much more I can help you.

I guess I was getting a little sidetracked. Where was I? Oh yeah, the reason we go to hamfests. We check the new radios and antennas and think, “When we have a much bigger house (than our current 188 square feet) we could get this radio and that amplifier and this power supply and rig it to this really tall antenna on a huge tower and . . .

A bunch of the best Net Controllers anywhere -- RV SVC NET

But the best reason to attend the hamfest with the RV Service Net is the RV Service Net people. From anywhere we set up in North America we can reach friends on the RV Service Net at scheduled ham radio nets any day of the week. The daily nets are directed by volunteer net controllers from all over the U.S. and Canada. And a special treat for us was to meet so many of the net controllers face to face last week.

We talk to these folks We enjoy visiting with them, talking with them, eating with them and, with many of them, traveling too. RV Service Net is a one of many many great groups of ham radio operators. We enjoy being able to reach one of our group’s nets from almost anywhere on the continent. And it is especially neat to spend the week in Orlando with so many hams from this group.

You probably wonder what we purchased at this Hamcation? Jim bought wire, microswitches, grounding strap, and we bought a couple of microphones. Is this not a wonderful demonstration of our unselfish quest to better serve you in any communications failures?

We’re making a little fun about what is really a very serious matter. For all the enjoyment we have, Jim especially, with ham radio the premise for the amateur radio licensing system is to promote advancement of emergency communications capability. And we do take this seriously and continue to carefully hone our skills and equipment for best radio communications.

Jim and Debbie
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