The Wheaton Community Radio Association or WCRA’s ham fest has always held a special place in my heart. For one, it was the first ham fest I had been to in modern times (got serious about the hobby again in the early 90’s). Back then, they had taken over the Odeon…I’m told it was a two hockey rings, but to me the space seemed massive. It was filled with vendors, exhibits and people. Lots of people. I took my first Tech exam at their ham fest and passed! It was painful to see how the event has dramatically shrunk in recent times. Held at the Kane county Fairgrounds, it is a mere shadow of its predecsor. I spent most of my time seeking out people, not gear. There just wasn’t that much gear to purchase (and perhaps that is my own perspective because how many radios can one have? Answer: never enough!)
The seminars were terrific. There were two on ARES and Emergency Management. I do get tired of hearing the laments of some ARES folks about the disorganization and countless re-orgs planned. I personally think the current ARES leadership is doing a great job of bringing this group back to life. They have appointed a huge number of new people and shook up some old traditions. I give Ron Morgan and Fritz Bock some real credit for getting this organization up and moving.
Our next big event is our winter dinner. Saturday night, February 24, 2018, Chevy Chase Country Club. This is always a great time…Open to all. We try to bring in a program speaker who can talk about something other than ham radio and that plays to the general intellectual curiosity of our audience. Over the years, we have had some terrific speakers and this year will be no different. Skip Talbot is an honest to goodness storm chaser. He is the real thing. This is not a hobby but a serious pursuit; a true intellectual, scientific and personal passion. I think you will enjoy the program. I have heard him talk to a group of certified weather geeks (ok, I am one of them) and he had us all spellbound. Now, even if you don’t like listening to presentations, come for the food! The food is always terrific at Chevy plus you have the opportunity to just visit with friends. We try to encourage folks to bring their husbands, wives, adult kids. Go to our web site to get information about how to sign up.
Some of you may have heard that we started a campaign to interview some of our newest members as a way to find out more about them and to better understand how we can better serve them. I just completed my first month and a half interviewing the new candidates and writing a short bio for the Board to review before they vote. This has been one of the best things I have done while at this club. I have had so many delightful conversations with such a diverse group of people. It is thrilling to meet them and hear about their ham radio journeys. I am always amazed how many people came to this hobby as a short wave listener (SWL for short). Makes me wonder how the next generation will discover this great hobby? Some discovered ham radio after seeing the shortcomings of CB radio. They quickly converted. Some just knew about this for years and finally had the time and money to get into things. I would say a larger percentage of our new hams are active only on VHF or UHF (the digital modes, D-Star, Fusion, and DMR), all for various reasons, but antenna restrictions plays an important part. Anyway, I have loved the experience and now other board members will take on the duties moving forward. This has been so successful, we are thinking about going back to meet up with some of our most recent new members who did not get a chance to go through this process. We want to be a responsive club…and we can only do that when we know what brings you here and what you want from this club.
Talking to these new hams has resurrected some fond memories of my own ham radio journey. I did start out as a SLWer. I had a wonderful Hallicrafters SX101 that sat behind my head in bedroom and I would roam the bands to hear the world. It was a magical world to me…and alphabet soup of call signs and mysterious locations. Through my headset, the world was in my head (eh, to my younger friends, there were not televisions yet…not in my house anyway). Ham radio didn’t get me fully motivated until I went to college, when my physics professor, knowing of my interest in the hobby, gave me his Kenwood TS520. Well, that was quite a clever trick! Now, I had no excuse and I had to get my ticket. It still took me a while to find the time, as I was totally focused on family raising and building a career. Eventually, it all came together and what a journey it has been. I will admit that being on the Board, which I did almost from the beginning, has impeded my progress toward DXCC, but I have learned so much along the way. Everyday there is more to discover and new modes to explore.
This has been a very supportive club, one that has allowed me to grow and expand my interest in the hobby. The credit belongs to the truly remarkable people who belong to this organization. I hope you find that to be the case as well.