What to Expect at Hamfest?
This is a special year for ham radio and our club. The ARRL has declared 2023 The Year of the Volunteer. Here at home, it is MARC's 96th year of serving the needs of our community! One of our club's special events will be our October hamfest at MAPS Air Museum. Also, several great hamfests will soon be here beginning in March.
It you are new to amateur radio you may be wondering what a hamfest is, and what you may expect should you attend. Hamfest might sound like an event for meat lovers, but for amateur radio operators, it is of course something far different.
Hamfest of course refers to ham radio. This is derived from amateur radio operation, which can be used in order to broadcast messages to others, or to listen out for signals from elsewhere. This is a way to express yourself creatively, to find an engaged and interested community of people, or to essentially pioneer and explore from the comfort of your home.
Hamfest is a festival intended to celebrate this activity, and of course everything two-way radio related. If this is your first event though, what should you expect?
WHAT HAPPENS AT HAMFEST?
Hamfests are organized by the amateur radio enthusiasts themselves and are designed to help gather information, promote new topics and events, and provide an opportunity for learning and networking.
Some of the things you can expect to find at a typical hamfest include a flea market (where attendees will buy and sell their radio equipment – from digital police scanners to handheld two-way radio), workshops, talks and seminars, meetings for clubs, and more.
There may also be demonstrations, contests, and more.
Junk boxes are commonly available at these events, which are essentially trunks full of scraps and remnants from old projects, or equipment that has since gone.
TIPS AND ADVICE
Most hamfests will also publish a ‘talk in’ frequency, which will normally be the local repeater or a temporary repeater. In some cases, it will just be a simplex frequency. Bring a HT (handie talkie – small shortwave radio!) along to listen in to that and you’ll be able to get updated about different things going on at any point during the event. That said, some people will find that it can be a hindrance to carry these with them all day.
Seeing as one of the main thrusts of these events is to buy and sell, another tip that is often given by regular attendees is to leave your cash in the car! This way you can limit yourself on those impulse purchases and only come back for the things you really want!
Many hamfests are multi day events meaning that you will likely camp in a tent and generally stay over – just like a music festival. Showers are provided in most cases, but you will find that not everyone takes advantage of this aspect. Seeing as you’ll often be in close quarters with a lot of other people, then you should probably be one of the people who does!
Finally, some events will have VE sessions, which will allow you to sign up to pass your next exam! This is great if you’re looking to get your license and move up a level.
In short, a hamfest is a fantastic opportunity for fans of radio and a great way to gain more knowledge, meet more like-minded people, and potentially fill your trunk with a whole lot of useless (but very cool) pieces of tech!
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