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DREAMing Big at Dayton

05/19/2009

With wet skies on Saturday morning, the 2009 ARRL National Convention and Dayton Hamvention® started a second day. The first day -- a beautiful sunny day with a slight breeze and few clouds -- saw crowds funnel through the many entrances at Hara Arena in search of a new antenna, a new radio, another addition for the shack. Hordes of hams perused the flea market aisles, dreaming of bargains. Dayton: The stuff that dreams are made of (with apologies to Sam Spade).

There is nowhere in the amateur universe as big as the Dayton Hamvention. This year, the Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA), sponsors of Hamvention, are definitely dreaming big. From the Hamvention theme -- DREAM: Digital Radio Enabling Amateurs to do More -- to the youngsters taking their Technician license exams to forum attendees to bargain hunters, Hamvention visitors are definitely dreaming big.

A massive forum schedule is one of the key features of the Dayton Hamvention. In keeping with this year's theme, there are numerous forums featuring digital radio. ARRL Publications Manager and QST Editor Steve Ford, WB8IMY, is presenting a form on digital contesting. Tying in with this, Shelby Sommerville, K4WW, led a forum on RTTY, both from the operations side and from the contesting side. ARRL Southeastern Division Director Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, piloted a multi-level forum on D-STAR.

Richard Garriott, W5KWQ, experienced his dream of going into space last year. This year, Garriott a guest of the ARRL and AMSAT here at Dayton, telling the convention crowds about his journey to a place that most of us can only dream about. Ever gracious, Garriott spent time with ARRL Youth Editor Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM, in addition to speaking and signing autographs at the ARRL EXPO area, the ARRL Youth Lounge, and ARRL and AMSAT forums. He also spoke at a Saturday afternoon forum about how he fulfilled his lifelong dream of experiencing space travel. By combining Amateur Radio and spaceflight, not only did Garriott realize his dream, he made the dreams of more than 200 hams come true when he spoke with them from the International Space Station (ISS).

The ARRL EXPO is definitely the place to be at Hara Arena. The publication sales table is a hotbed of activity, with hams picking up the latest League publications and Field Day shirts, hats and pins. Operators are flocking over to W1AW/8; every ham who operates or visits the Special Event station receives a certificate.

The busiest place in the ARRL EXPO is definitely the kit building area. Led by ARRL Lab Testing Engineer Bob Allison, WB1GCM, with assistance from QEX Editor Larry Wolfgang, WR1B, and ARRL Instructors, hams (and non-hams, too!) are sitting down in front of a circuit board and soldering iron to build either a 24 hour clock or electronic keyer. "We are seeing a lot of people of all ages - including a large number of kids -- coming over to build. A large majority have never built a kit before. They are so excited to be able to build something that they can use immediately." Allison pointed out that ham parents are bringing in their non-licensed children to build kits: "The little ones are having a blast, and the parents are so proud that their kids are getting interested in Amateur Radio through the lit building projects."

The ARRL National Convention has an expanded IARU exhibit area his year. Led by new IARU President Tim Ellam, VE6SH, and Vice President Ole Garpestad, LA2RR, the booth is staffed by representatives from the three IARU Regions: The Deutscher Amateur Radio Club (DARC) from Germany is representing Region 1, the ARRL is representing Region 2 and the Japan Amateur Radio League (JARL) is representing Region 3.

"It is exciting to see how many people are coming over and visiting us," Ellam said. "With the JARL processing applications for the IARU's Worked All Continent (WAC) and 5-Band WAC awards, there has been a steady flow of amateurs here." In addition to the WAC awards, the DARC is sponsoring a world flag identification contest and the ARRL is offering a RUFZ CW copying competition throughout the event.

"It's certainly well known that hams from all over the world come to Dayton for the Hamvention," said ARRL International Vice President Rod Stafford, W6ROD. "We truly have an international flavor in the ARRL EXPO though, as this is the first time that we have had representatives from all three IARU regions to be with the IARU booth. We hope as many hams as possible can stop by and visit with IARU representatives from all corners of the globe."

For those dreaming of new products, there are close to 35 new products that ARRL Technical Editor Joel Hallas, W1ZR, has found -- so far. From a 2 meter transverter module for the Elecraft K3 to a traditional hexagonal five band Yagi from DX Engineering to antenna tuners from Ten-Tec and Palstar, there is a wide variety of the latest in ham radio gear to satisfy even the most hard-to-please ham.

The flea market has seen brisk business, even with the damp weather. A bargain hunter's paradise, the flea market is considered by the ultimate bargain shopper as ham radio paradise. Aisles and aisles of tables populate a parking lot full of shoppers seeking the best deal, with the vendors doing a brisk business in unloading their many treasures.

While it's said that you can find anything at Dayton, no one has yet to spot a statue of a falcon reputed to contain priceless jewels. But since this is Dayton, anything is possible if you just dream.



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