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Dropping in on Field Day

06/28/2009

Field Day has a peculiar attraction for most hams. On the one hand, it is an emergency preparedness exercise, but on the other hand it is perhaps the largest Amateur Radio social event in the country. When the last full weekend in June comes around, you feel almost obligated to participate, even if it is just by yourself.

Of course, many of us can’t join the fun because of family commitments, work schedules and so on. My excuse was the fact that I promised my family a vacation back to our original hometown of Dayton, Ohio -- via Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania (a detour precipitated by pleas from my teenage daughter).

I’m not an amusement park kind of guy. Hurtling through the air upside down is not my idea of entertainment. So, I decided to drop the family at Hersheypark late Sunday morning and then search for a local club that had set up for Field Day.

Thanks to the ARRL Web, and some creative programming by ARRL Information Technology Manager Jon Bloom, KE3Z, it’s easy to find a Field Day site when you’re on the road. Our hotel was equipped with WiFi, so I jumped online and consulted the ARRL Field Day locator. Within minutes I discovered that the Lebanon Valley Society for Radio Amateurs (LVSRA) were operating in a park in Lebanon, about 15 miles east of Hershey. That looked like my best bet. After a pleasant drive through rolling farm country and the historic town of Annville, I arrived at South Hills Park in Lebanon.

I found the LVSRA gang easily. It was hard to miss the two trailers and the 20 meter beam antenna held aloft by a “cherry picker.” They were a friendly bunch and didn’t mind taking a break to brief me on their Field Day activities.

The LSVRA had operated SSB, CW and some PSK31 on several bands from 80 meters through 70 cm. Their low-slung 80 meter NVIS antenna allowed them to blanket the entire eastern US and their 20-meter beam reaped a substantial number of contacts. According to one gentleman, their VHF operators were treated to a 6 meter band opening to the Midwest and West late Saturday night.

LVSRA club President Doug LeFever, W3DL, said they enjoyed a good turnout from the membership. It’s easy to see why. South Hills Park is a beautiful setting for the event and you couldn’t ask for better weather. As Doug added, “The camaraderie and food are the biggest draws.”

My visit was brief, but I came away satisfied. My only regret was that I hadn’t arrived earlier. By the time I showed up, they were beginning to wind down their operation. Even so, it was obvious that the group had enjoyed themselves. They took Field Day seriously in the sense that they wanted to do well, but they never lost sight of the need to simply have fun at the same time. If the LVSRA is a typical Amateur Radio club, our future is secure.

I rejoined my weary (but happy) family later in the day. Needless to say, they didn’t see my experience as being quite the same as a turn on the Sooperdooperlooper, but I disagreed. Catching a bit of the Field Day spirit beats shrieking in terror at 60 MPH any day.

Steve Ford, WB8IMY, is the Editor of QST magazine. You can contact him at sford@arrl.org.

Steve Ford, WB8IMY



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