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Doubling Up on Field Day

06/25/2009

As most any ham knows, Field Day is by far the most popular operating event of the ham-land calendar. Every June thousands of radio amateurs pack up or set up in some way to participate in this wonderful event.


There are a number of categories that a club or individual can participate in. These categories range from the popular “A” class with temporary power and antenna to “F” class for operating in an EOC and a number of classes in between.


Our Club, Skyview Radio Society, has had a long tradition of operating in Class A. We never took Field Day too seriously and always had a great time casually operating from our club property. Our scores were always toward the lower end of the list, but we were happy just plugging along and making Qs (contacts) from our temporary antennas.


A few years ago an old member and highly successful contester John, K3MD, returned to the club after moving back into the Pittsburgh area. John (also known as Doc) looked at our nice array of antennas at the clubhouse and said it was a shame not to use them for Field Day. Doc recommended that we try operating as Class E (Home stations - Emergency power: Stations operating from permanent or licensed station locations but using emergency power for transmitters and receivers.) for a year and see how we liked it. We took Doc up on his recommendation and gave Class E a shot. As is turned out, we landed up achieving the third highest score in the country in 3E.


The next year we placed second in 4E. Suddenly we were the little club that could. Now everybody knows Field Day is not a contest. It is an operating event to help people learn the details of using radio under emergency conditions. Everybody knows this. Or do they? This is where our story really begins.


The Great Field Day Debate


In our club we have two differing points of view on the subject. There is one camp that is liking the notoriety of achieving a very high score in this “event.” There is another camp that much prefers to do Field Day the way they feel it was meant to be, using temporary antennas and power, and not in a normal structure. We discussed our varied view points at a number of meetings. Here is what we learned about Field Day:


• Any event that keeps a score, offers incentives to score higher and lists the rankings in a magazine sure looks and smells like a contest.


• People and clubs go through a lot of effort to increase their score each year too. Yes, there are no multipliers but there is still a ranking and a competitive feel. Furthermore, if Field Day was never meant to be done from a permanent structure, with permanent antennas, why then is there a category in the rules describing just such a scenario?


• On the other hand: Why is there a “field” in Field Day? Many people much prefer to operate from a park, mountain top or other such location. Who could blame them? This is great fun.


After conversations with fellow club members it became apparent to me there was a considerable contingent on both sides of the debate. Was one side wrong and the other side right? The contesters in the club love to gear up and operate for Field Day. These were folks who really didn’t want to give up our competitive Field Day. The non-competitive side was just as determined to operate in the field.

 What was a little club to do?

 The solution: Two Field Days.

 
Something for Everyone


As a club we realized that it was possible to have more than one call sign. Skyview obtained a second call, WX3SKY and operated the second Field Day from a pavilion high on a hill in a nearby park. When this idea was first proposed I was skeptical. I wondered if there were enough people willing to put in the effort that it takes to put on a successful operation. I was wrong. There were more than enough people and the second Field Day was a great success. We also had no shortage of people coming to the clubhouse and operating with us contest geeks. Both sites got good press coverage and all was right with the world.


When all was said and done, everybody came away with wonderful stories of Skyview Field Day 2008. Plans are already in the works to make 2009 even better and it will be. So what did we learn about this thing called Field Day? Field Day is what you make of it. There are good reasons that this is such a popular event.


The reasons are varied and personal. “To each his own” is the saying of the day. To the contesters in our group, we are still in hot pursuit of that number one spot, as are many clubs. To the field operators, it was a splendid weekend at the park where many folks operated for the first time and the joy and challenge of setting up and operating with temporary antennas was hard to beat. Both sites had smiles all around. Happy Field Day!


Robert Bastone, WC3O, an ARRL member, has been licensed since 1979. Bob operates about 98% CW on the HF bands and can be found during drive times daily on 2 meter FM. Bob is the Radio Officer, head cook and bottle washer for Skyview Radio Society, K3MJW. He enjoys organizing multiclub events in the Pittsburgh area. One of his main goals in Amateur Radio is to promote ham radio to young people. Bob is married to a ridiculously understanding wife of 20 years and has one really smart daughter in college. He has worked for the last 30 years in the family automotive repair business. Bob can be reached at Robert L. Bastone, WC3O, 308 Garden Hill Dr, Tarentum, PA 15084-9322.
 

Robert Bastone, WC3O



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