I had not been to the hamfest in Dayton since 2004, so it’s been ten years. I have to admit that I was not all that excited about going, but as the time to leave grew near, I was once again looking forward to the trip and a day in the Hamvention. This was the first time my son Andrew, N9AWM, had been to Dayton, and I was going with him. Like I said it has been ten years since my last visit, and I was looking forward to digging in the boneyard for buried treasure.
What’s a boneyard? THE Boneyard at Dayton is the acres and acres of flea market space in the parking lot of Hara Arena. Used and abused, new and old, pieces and parts of everything imaginable for radio, amateur TV, communications of any kind, can be found here. Of course there are also several hundred commercial vendors in the arena and adjoining convention halls. Free hats, free bumper stickers, trinkets of all kinds to be had.
We left Indy at about 7:20AM and headed east on I-70…finding out the hard way that at least half of the trip was to be under construction, so the journey was slow, tedious, and somewhat dangerous. We did arrive at the Salem Mall at about 9:30AM. Once there we bought a $6 bus pass and rode the shuttle bus to the arena, about 5 minute ride.
Ten years ago the Salem Mall was a real live shopping mall. In 2014 it’s a boarded up, abandoned derelict building, much like a lot of the commercial property in this part of town. That did not seem to scare off the hams though. The buses were being run by the Dayton Rapid Transit Authority, and they did a fantastic job. Since the arena has NO, as in NONE, public parking on the property during hamfest, the park and ride deal can not be beat.
We walked right in the arena and plopped down our $25 each for a ticket, stepped over to the Boy Scout booth and gave them $5 to laminate the ticket and mount it on a souvenir lanyard. That was $4 for the lanyard and $1 for the scouts. Now we have a nice keepsake from the trip. From there we went to the prize booth at the entrance of the grand hall, and entered our tickets in the gigantic barrel in hopes of winning an hourly prize, or even the grand prize to be drawn on Sunday.
Now, let me say this. It’s very easy to run down the Dayton hamfest. DARA puts on a great show with the Hamvention every year but let’s face facts. The venue has seen better days, and the part of town it is in has seen better days. I would like to see this event moved to a newer location. That has been said every year for the last 25 years or so.
This event was the 63rd running of the Dayton Hamvention, it has long historic roots in the area and it is legendary to ham radio operators ALL OVER THE WORLD. People come to Dayton for the hamfest from all corners of the globe. Asian, European, African, South American, North American, Australian, and any other kind of ham radio operator you can imagine can be found in Dayton. It’s a BIG deal to the people that enjoy and love this hobby. It should go on indefinitely…but it needs to find a new home.
The facilities at Hara Arena are decrepit. They are dangerous. They are filthy. Sanitation problems there are legendary. It’s been getting progressively worse every year and it is plain to see that whomever owns the place and has the responsibility for the upkeep, is not interested in investing any money to keep it up. It needs to move. I don’t advocate the moving of the hamfest outside of Dayton, providing Dayton has a place to hold it that is not in the disgusting conditions of Hara Arena, but they need to stop holding it at Hara.
Andrew and I spent about 7 hours walking around and looking at the gear on display, bought a few small things, saw no really outstanding prices on anything, and enjoyed a world famous Dayton Hamfest Bratwurst. We ran into a lot of friends, and the social aspect of any hamfest usually turns out to be my favorite thing anyway. If you have never been to the Dayton Hamfest, then you owe it to yourself to see it at least one time.
I think with the advent of the internet buy/sell marketplaces, we’re able to enjoy best pricing now on a daily basis instead of having to wait on a local hamfest to score our best deals. I also think the hamfest is the best way to have face to face social interactions with each other, so I don’t think they are going to go away. In the old west the fur traders and mountain men used to have things called “Rendezvous” – a time and place where they would all meet up to trade wares, swap stories, and interact with each other…sounds a lot like a tailgater hamfest to me. If anything is to save or keep the hamfests alive, I think the social aspect is going to be the saving grace.
Overall I enjoyed my 2014 trip to Dayton, right now I’m pretty sure I won’t go in 2015 but you never know…every May seems to bring a renewed interest, but I do wish DARA would find a better place to have it. $25 is all I am willing to spend on a hamfest at a dump like Hara Arena…move it to a nice facility and you could double your price.
73 de KB9BVN