Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hamfest Weekend

This weekend was the annual Melbourne Hamfest and ARRL State Convention and as you can see by that link, the 52nd such get together (not every year is the state convention).  I've mentioned this activity many times, and it's one of two shows we pretty much go to every year, partly because the 1976 Melbourne Hamfest was the first hamfest I ever went to.

This subject should really be broken in two parts.  First off, there's a lot of new hams that frequent the same blogs I do and I don't know if other bloggers have talked about local hamfests.  Should you go?  Well, yeah.  Why should you go?  That's marginally harder to answer because it kind of depends on your local show and you won't know unless you go.  The local hamfest is likely to have lots of used equipment for sale, quite possibly a lot of new equipment and lots of opportunities to learn.  The exact mix of used vs. new depends, again, on your particular show.  Melbourne used to have more new gear than it has had for the last couple of years as the commercial sellers have gone elsewhere one by one.  It's a good place to make meatspace connections with local hams. 

A lot of shows will feature talks by local groups of some sort, contest groups, public service, experimenters, or technical talks by individual hams.  This year featured a speaker from the local National Weather Service office with some storm spotter information and other things to know.  I attended a talk on Software Defined Radios a few years ago and there have been some good technical talks over the years.

All that said, it was pretty lame this year.  None of the big dealers were present, and really nobody selling anything other than new accessories from MFJ (kinda the big name in ham radio "do-dads").  If you wanted some 50 year old ham gear from Collins or Drake, they were there, along with a few Heathkits and other old gear.  I've been licensed since 1976 and there was gear there that was old when I started.   

People have been predicting the demise of the hamfest for almost as long as I can remember; certainly since eBay became a hamfest that's going 24/7/365.  If nothing else, they will evolve and change.  A problem this year was the city, who owns the place the hamfest was held, suddenly changed the rules making the tailgate swap area off limits for overnight camping.  If you're driving from far out of town, expecting to put out a table of gear, and then take it back in while you sleep in your RV, suddenly being told you can't do that is a big impact. 

The big hamfests seem to have a different niche and are doing better.  The Orlando Hamcation is doing well and bills themselves as the "second largest hamfest" in the US, behind the "granddaddy", Dayton Hamvention.  Usually just referred to as "Dayton" by hams; as in "you goin' to Dayton this year?";  Hamvention has outlived the city's HARA arena it has been held in forever and this year moved to nearby Xenia, Ohio.  Behind those two, though, and a handful of large ones, how well they'll do is an open question.   


  1. The big one out in SoCal was the TRW swapmeet in Redond Beach on the last Saturday of the month. TRW was absorbed into Northrup-Grumman, but it's still called the TRW swapmeet.

    And Torrance was a rotating location for the ARRL SW Division convention, called HAMCON.

    Now that I'm in the Northern Colorado Amateur Radio Club, I'm looking forward to the once-a-year hamfest they have.

    And next Saturday is the breakfast meeting, which I'm looking forward to attending.

    1. I've never lived in SoCal and even I know about the TRW swapmeet. It's like the MIT Flea - which was today, BTW. One that everyone hears of.

      I don't know your new club, though. There are tons of regional hamfests. Hope it's a good one.