Hamfest in Yuma
A Ham Fest in Yuma, Arizona. Yuma? For those of you without a sense of American geography, Yuma is in the very bottom corner of Arizona, next to Mexico and California. And yes, it is still part of the USA. Known best for its old territorial prison and the last port of entry for the Colorado River, before they drained all of the water out of it to irrigate the desert farm land. Yuma is a desert town…and home to a huge Marine base. Yuma is also home for my in-laws and as i was reading the last issue of QST, I saw an ad for the Yuma ham fest, so, we built a trip to see the in-laws around the ham fest.
The ham fest is actually at the Yuma Fairgrounds…and most of the attendees drive up in their RV’s (Yuma is the summer home to about 30,000 snow birds from all over, who drive down and spend the winter living out of their aluminum mobile homes.) So picture the fair grounds loaded with about 100 parked RV’s, and in front of each is a pile of ham goodies for sale. There are four large exhibit buildings, but only one building has exhibitors…not a large pile of vendors, but some rather interesting ones. Seems, that the survivalist movement has discovered ham radio…so there were a bunch of exhibitors who were selling strange tools to survive the …well, whatever. I spent most of my time and money with one guy who, it turns out, spent his entire professional career soldering electronics He had a many different types of soldering stations and stories for them all. He was fascinating to talk to and a font of fabulous information. (I did get his business card!!) He was from California. As you can imagine, there were many vendors selling wares that were suitable for RV applications…many end fed slopers and extension poles for RV mounts.
Outside the main building, a large crowd was huddled around a couple of guys preparing to launch their weather balloon with a ham radio APRS, slow scan and fast scan camera equipment. I watched the proceedings and was very impressed with the launch and flight operation. We had a beautiful picture of the earth below as it climbed to nearly 40,000 feet and went about 35 miles down range. You have to coordinate these launches with the Marine base…but I wondered what would have happened if the winds were blowing south, and had taken the balloon to Mexico! Also, I understand the ballon swells to almost 15 feet in diameter as it ascends and eventually bursts, sending the gear back to earth (look out below…well, in Yuma, there isn’t much out there) so unless you are a hapless rattlesnake, most people are safe from the descending gear.
The other two buildings had VE testing in one and seminars in the other. The seminars were fascinating…although I could not stay for some of the better ones on Friday afternoon.
I didn’t spend all of my money in Yuma. I did save some for Dayton. It was really fun to visit fellow hams in such a distant land…and find that we all speak the same lingo and have the same interests. I wish I could have spent more time at the hamfest…but I did try to be mindful of my limited time with my in-laws and my most tolerant wife.