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Hams Throng Dayton for 2016 Hamvention

Rain doesn’t dampen hamthusiasm at three-day amateur radio event

The Crowd Inside Hara Arena at the 2016 Dayton Hamvention

The 65th annual Dayton “Hamvention” officially got underway in Dayton, Ohio, Friday morning with crowds of radio amateurs streaming in from virtually every point of the compass to check out the latest in ham radio equipment, look for a vintage “rig” or replacement parts for one in the vast flea market, take in the numerous ham radio-related presentations offered, or to socialize and engage in “eyeball QSOs” (speaking to each other in person rather than via radio).

Despite rain on Saturday, the hams were very good at “keeping the show going” and were ready with tents, tarps and foul weather gear, with some wet feet about the only casualties of the storm.

Vintage broadcast equipment is usually seen for sale at the flea market and this year was no exception. This Gates Gatesway 80 eight-pot console might have found a new home if the price was right.

A final headcount was not immediately available but according to Hamvention media chairman, Henry Ruminski, W8HJR, the number was expected to be close to 25,000. The Hamvention is something of a major stimulus to the Dayton-area economy, with most hotels, motels and RV parks completely filled, restaurants packed and roads crowded with vehicles sporting license plates with amateur radio call signs. Various estimates put the impact at somewhere between $10 and $20 million during the three-day event.

Curt Bartholomew, senior emergency and continuity manager of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security, traveled from Washington to host an FCC forum at the Hamvention. Due to travel budget cuts, this was the first time the FCC was represented at the show in four years, and Bartholomew’s session was especially popular.

More than 200 commercial equipment vendors packed the exhibition space in Hara Arena, usually a sports venue, the home to the Hamvention for decades. The large surrounding parking lots were almost completely filled by flea market tailgaters.

Besides the arena and parking lot flea market, there were five meeting rooms to learn about the latest developments in such areas as portable HD antenna technology, digital operating modes, “fast scan” television on the ham bands, amateur radio satellite developments, radioteletype contesting, and more. Especially popular was a Saturday afternoon Federal Communications Commission forum hosted by Curt Bartholomew, N3GQ, senior emergency and continuity manager of the commission’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. The fact that Bartholomew is a radio amateur himself made the Q&A session even more lively.

After Saturday’s events wound to a close in Dayton, a large number of hams responded to a special invitation for an evening tour of the National Voice of America Museum located some 40 miles to the south in Bethany, Ohio, with the tour and radio-related conversations lasting late into the night.

The Hamvention is the largest event of its kind in the world and draws radio amateurs from many nations. (According to Ruminski, there are delegates this year from at least 35 countries.)

A familiar face, Jay Adrick, radio amateur and GatesAir technical advisor, was on hand at the VOA Museum booth to greet fellow hams and provide information about the area museum housed in the former Voice of America Bethany shortwave transmitting station.