Hamfest Offers Forums on Amateur Radio

Apr 19, 2018

Hamfest 2018 is April 21 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the West Monroe Convention Center. Hamfest is hosted by the Northeast Louisiana Amateur Radio Club to celebrate amateur or "ham" radio.

"Hamfest is a convention of radio enthusiasts that combines a trade show, flea market, and various other activities of interest to amateur radio operators," says Scott Dickson of the Northeast Louisiana Amateur Radio Club. The festival includes forums on several topics related to ham radio, as well as raffle prizes and license testing.

"Operating QRP" is a forum on low power operating systems. QRP outputs 5 watts or less of energy, which is similar to the wattage of a night light. Through that wattage, amateur radio operators can make contact with other frequencies around the nation and the world.

The Louisiana Contest Club is combining a forum and meeting. The group is a "niche within a niche," according to Dickson. Members enjoy radio sport and amateur radio contesting, which consist of accomplishing certain radio activities such as contacting multiple states, countries, or continents. Participants must abide by a set of rules and a time limit. The radio operator who earns the most points based on their activities wins bragging rights until the next contest.

The American Radio Relay League, a national association of amateur radio operators, is giving a forum to update operators on the federal legislature around the country that might affect them. 

Amateur radio operators can receive training from the National Weather Service to become "storm spotters."
Credit NOAA Photo Library / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

While there may be misconceptions that ham radio is extinct or no longer useful, it proves to have practical applications. Many ham radio operators are part of the National Weather Service SKYWARN Network. "The NWS provides free training around the region periodically," says Dickson. "You may have heard a weatherman say, 'We have a spotter who has seen and confirms a tornado on the ground.' That's someone who's had training from the NWS." Often, radio is faster and more reliable than phone or email during severe weather.

According to Dickson, the next steps for someone interested in becoming a ham radio operator are as follows:

  1. Meet another "ham." Hamfest is an opportunity to meet amateur radio operators who can give information about amateur radio.
  2. Do a little research. The Amateur Radio Relay League website has comprehensive articles discussing radio operations.
  3. Find an "Elmer." In the ham radio world, mentors are referred to as "elmers," and they can provide personal guidance and assistance to would-be hams.

More information about Hamfest 2018 is available here. Scott Dickson is available to answer questions at w5wz@w5wz.com