North Fulton Amateur Radio League Field Day 2008 -- A Phoenix Rises from the Ashes in Georgia
In 2006, the North Fulton (Georgia) Amateur Radio League (NFARL) was nearly extinct. We had about 15 members and met once a month at a local restaurant. Membership was at best stagnant, at worst falling off. It was so bad we did not even hold a Field Day event that year. Thanks to the leadership of our president, Jim Stafford, W4QO, membership rose to roughly 80 members and we had a fair showing at Field Day 2007. Roughly 85 people visited our site and we finished in Class 3A with over 3800 points. We thought we were doing pretty well. Fast forward to 2008 and the story gets even better. We are up to over 150 members and had a Field Day to remember in 2008. This is the story of our remarkable rise from the ashes to put on the best Field Day in our club history.
Preparation and Planning
We started planning for Field Day 2008 around March. I co-chaired our event with Steve Knittel, KC4YBO, the primary event chair. The first order of business was finding a Field Day site. Since we had such good luck with it last year, Steve decided to return to the Waller Park Extension in Roswell, Georgia. This park has great athletic fields, spaced close to each other and the parking lot. This arrangement is perfect for setting up a variety of antennas (loops, dipoles, verticals, etc). Steve and Jim asked me to join the Field Day team after the location and some preliminary items were set (operating class, station hardware, modes/bands used, etc).
I had some ideas about publicizing the event to maximize both our points and exposure. I spoke to my friend Corey-Jan Albert. Corey-Jan is chief creative officer of 575 Communications, a marketing communications firm in Roswell. Since communication is her area of expertise, I asked for her help in preparing a press kit for the club. Steve and I met with her and we prepared a press release and Public Service Announcement (PSA) for our local media outlets.
I sent the information out via both e-mail and traditional postal mail in mid-May. I received responses back from several public affairs directors (including one fellow ham!) that their radio stations would definitely air our PSA. I also sent the information, along with an invitation to Field Day, to numerous local elected officials. This group included our two US senators, our US representative, five local mayors and Georgia's governor. In addition, I enlisted the aid of Tom Koch, W4UOC, our local ARES(TM) group Emergency Operations Coordinator, to send the information to our local served agencies. That is when the fun really began.
The News Spreads
Tom sent our press release and PSA to the public safety heads of the cities of Roswell, Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek and Milton (our primary served municipalities, all in the northern part of Fulton County). The next thing we knew, the media relations director for Sandy Springs had sent out a press release endorsing our Field Day event and talking up Field Day in general.
That press release was picked up and run by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, our local newspaper. I got a call from one of their reporters, which resulted in a second article about 10 days later, 1 week before Field Day. That article covered ham radio and Field Day in even more detail and resulted in several inquiries from people in the area interested in coming to Field Day. Additionally, the Roswell Fire Department committed to bringing their new mobile emergency operations center to display at the start of Field Day (although they were ultimately unable to attend due to a fire).
In the meantime, while we were gearing up for all the visitors expected at our Field Day, Jim Paine, N4SEC, was busy schmoozing up the local politicians. Jim is the Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Alpharetta and an active member of the Fulton County Republican Party. Jim worked hard for a commitment from at least one elected official to come to Field Day. At the same time, I was working with the offices of the mayors, members of Congress, senators, etc, to get them to Field Day. I secured commitments from our Congressman and several mayors. Our Senators declined due to scheduling conflicts.
Preparing the Line-Up
Once we had the publicity and elected officials lined up, the hard part began. I had to get the members of NFARL to pitch in and make sure the stations were manned, that food was provided, set up and tear down were handled, etc. Our food captains, Shelia Staton, KD4NKE, and Lynn Kahn, KJ4DYH, handled the food issue with ease. Getting people to sign up to operate was a different matter. We ran into the same issue all clubs everywhere run into: everyone wanted to work early in the event or after breakfast Sunday. After much prodding along, I got enough people signed up to run our three main stations all 24 hours of Field Day. We even had the Get-On-The-Air (GOTA) station manned well into the evening hours Saturday and then again on Sunday.
Another tool in our arsenal for success was continuous communications. I took advantage of both our club Web site (www.nfarl.org) and our Yahoo! group to get the word out and make requests of club members. I put together a spreadsheet with all our stations and operating slots so people knew what was covered, what was needed and how to volunteer for something. I also asked our Webmaster Bill Cobb, K4YJJ, to post e-mail bulletins I published several times a week. With all this communicating going on, how could I lose?
The Successful Event!
After breakfast on June 28 we proceeded to the Field Day location where we met the rest of the group and setup began. Before long, dipoles were in the air, verticals and beams were up and radios were being tested. Members of one of the local Boy Scout troops, Troop 3000, came to assist with set up and earn their Radio Merit Badges. Wes Lamboley, W3WL, and Fred Moore, N4CLA, led the training for eight scouts. And even their parents got in on the action. A couple of the scout leaders and parents joined our club and are pursuing their Technician class licenses!
Thanks to all of our communications efforts, including Jim Payne's contacts and the scheduling of the Fulton County Republican Party fund-raiser barbecue (which was set to end at 2 PM on June 28), we wound up with two mayors, one of the US senators who had previously declined our invitation, the congressman who committed to coming (and had a blast), two Georgia state representatives from our served areas and one Fulton County commissioner. To top it all off, when one of the mayors arrived, he was so impressed that he started calling as many media outlets as he could from his cell phone! One of the smaller papers responded, writing an article on us and Field Day. Finally, in a happy twist of fate, Greg Sarratt, W4OZK, the ARRL Southeastern Division director, paid our site a visit as he toured north-central Georgia Field Day sites.
As the day wore on, the contacts piled up and the visitors came and came and came (and some of them even went). At the end of Field Day 2008, we had 195 recorded visitors to our site. Of that number, 61 were members of NFARL. The remainder were either non affiliated hams or non-hams who are now interested in pursuing licenses. We worked a total of 2250 QSOs (737 on CW, 1513 on phone) and we had one of the most successful GOTA operations ever, with 238 total contacts. We had people asking "How do I get a license?" As a result of this interest, on October 4, 2008 the North Fulton Amateur Radio League held another Technician class licensing clinic and test session, called "Ham Cram." We licensed 18 new Technician class operators that afternoon.
Field Day 2008 was a tremendous success for the North Fulton Amateur Radio League, largely because everyone pitched in and helped. With the growth in membership our club has seen over the last year and the work of everyone involved, NFARL had a history-making Field Day. Now it's time to start on next year!
Ian Kahn, AK4IK, was licensed as General class operator KI4VQQ in May 2007. He upgraded to Amateur Extra class in April 2008 and acquired the call sign AK4IK shortly thereafter. Ian's activities include participating on local 2 meter repeaters, chasing DX and contesting. He is also active in the North Fulton Amateur Radio League, where he is a volunteer examiner and served as co-chairman of the 2008 Field Day activities. An ARRL member, Ian has worked in various positions in the IT industry for the last 13 years. Currently, he is a network administrator/manager for a defense contractor. He lives in Roswell, Georgia and can be contacted at 1905 Six Branches Dr, Roswell, GA 30076.
Ian Kahn, AK4IK