|2006 represented my first visit to Dayton in 18 years. Some
things have changed and others have not but for all practical
purposes, my Hamvention reorientation was that of a newbie. I
would visit Dayton again in a heartbeat but I do feel obligated to mention
a few gotchas.
Perhaps by luck, a number of us stayed in the town of Huber Heights
and we would repeat that choice in future years. Huber Heights
is only a few miles north of the Dayton Hamvention but more
importantly, the restaurants are not overcrowded and many economical
hotels are available.
One word of caution: If you are a
non-smoker, avoid the Super-8 Hotel in Huber Heights! I asked
for a non-smoking room but the room and furniture were saturated
with the stench of old smoke. Turning on the air conditioner
only spewed a different odor now enhanced by smoked dust.
The white smoke detector in the ceiling was stained with an amber
discoloration. I asked for another room but was told that what I
had was all that was available and that the smokers were, in fact,
on the far side of the hallway. I always kept the window
open but it only helped a little. Other participants stayed at the
nearby Huber Heights Days Inn and were quite happy with their
accommodations. If you avoid the Super-8 Hotel in Huber
Heights on your next trip to the Hamvention, I will consider my time
spent writing this narration as a humanitarian effort!
The Waffle House chain is
on our "approved" list.
This location was many miles away from the
but they were quite aware of the event.
Good food, good service.
Not only were gas prices a surprise,
a medium hot fudge
sundae at the Dairy Queen was only $2.09.
The Hamvention has grown so large that the organizers provide no
on-site parking for ordinary participants. Zero. If you are a flea market
vendor, inside exhibitor, volunteer or have special ADA needs, you can be
accommodated with on-site parking. According to the printed brochure that
you receive once inside, you can park for free at the
Salem Mall and then take a for-fee shuttle bus.
Unfortunately, the printed brochure does not tell you where the
Salem Mall is located. The web site might have
helped but I was too far into the parking process for
the web to be of any use. For $8.00 many ordinary participants
park in a huge field across the street from the HARA
Arena but it seems that the organizers (DARA)
and the lot operators do not communicate. When you
take the long walk to enter the HARA area's only
entrance by foot, absolutely no signs provide you with
the most basic orientation such as where to
purchase tickets and where to enter the buildings!
To be sure, I checked by looking back on my last
departure and there was no orientation signage!
Many golf carts can be seen scampering about but one
would assume that this service is for VIP's or attendees
with special ADA needs. I walked into the first
door I could find but was told to walk to the main
entrance which was on the far, far side of the grounds.
I now walked past the area where my car was parked but I
was now on the other side of two fences that
straddled the same road.
I later found out that the golf cart
service was available to all incoming participants but
that was never communicated by fixed signs or welcome hosts.
Ironic for a communications-oriented group! This
may be an indication that due to the age and heritage of
this magnificent event, DARA may just expect that these
issues are common knowledge and they may be common
knowledge for most
longtime participants. But for a newbie or
returnee after an 18 year hiatus, the first impressions
could use some work.
||The HARA Arena is aging
and needs attention. The ceiling
tiles in the smaller rooms are yellowing and
the place could use a good freshening up.
That being said, IT REALLY DOESN'T MATTER!
Hams come from all over
the world to take part in the HamVention
experience. They would still come if
the event was a just a large campfire and a
flea market with 2000 participants!
Now that we've dealt with the gotchas, the overall
HamVention experience was excellent! It is
unbelievable that a bunch of volunteers can run such a
phenomenally successful and complex event. DARA
wisely chose to have the outside food concessions be
operated by local non-profit organizations. As
opposed to the zombie stare found at most airport food
concessions, the people who staffed the food areas were
excited to be there and were quite friendly. I have no
idea how many vendors exhibited in the flea market area but
it was easily several hundred (later update: 2300
spaces, only a few unsold). Contrary to some
well known laws of physics and earth science, this HamVention
ARRL Expo was also on-site. My only regret was
that I was so enthralled with the flea market and
exhibitor booths that I was not able to dedicate enough
time to the ARRL activities. That was my fault,
not DARA's. Too much to see, too much to do.
One of the best improvements
since my last visit 18 years ago !
Nowhere on the planet could one find such
a depth and breadth of ham radio
exhibitors and flea market vendors... and shall we say
"eclectic" participants. Only weeks earlier one
could notice a person at the NAB Broadcasters convention in
Las Vegas dressed-up in a pin-striped suit signing
multi-million dollar purchase orders. Three weeks
later the same engineering executive can be seen
dressed up in sneakers, dusty jeans and a baseball cap
with his call sign on the front. But now he spends
his time haggling over the price of a well-used
microphone found in the bottom of a cardboard box!
Many, but not all attendees seem to be employed in some sort of
technology field. At the extreme, some attendees
might be members of the Ted
Kazinski Amateur Radio Club. Others in our group noticed what
may be an increase of husband and wife ham attendees and
many of the couples seem to be retired folks. In the
parking lot, we noticed far more vehicles with huge HF
antennas. This might be more of a mid-west trend
(no parking garages) or perhaps the Hamvention attracts
the hard-core ham and having a huge vehicular antenna is
not such a big deal.
to be a pretty trustworthy bunch. On Friday I did
misplace a bag with a precious Kenwood purchase.
On Saturday morning, the bag was ready to pick up at
lost and found. It was returned by a ham who was a
Professor/PhD from the University of Miami. Now if
I can find his misplaced business card !
The characters in our group...
Bottom row L to R
Ron Hahn, EI2JP, Ireland (software designer, Irish
Roger Coulson, WA1NVC (Engineer, spook satellite
communications stuff.... real hush, hush... we can't
Dale MacKay, W1DHM (TV Engineer and Firefighter/EMT/Chief
Engineer, Sandwich, NH Fire Dept)
Top Row L to R
Rick Zach, K1RJZ (TV station chief engineer
and this writer)
John Suker, W1TX (Semi-retired owner, Central Vermont
Paul Alberghini, W1IMD (RF engineer and tower site
||Will Bartlett, N1PXA (Communications technician
on government... [shhh...we can't tell you]
||Mike Keller, W1BNC
(TV Engineering Executive)
||Kurt Jackson, W1OBQ
(Experienced RF guru and fearless tower