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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What if you had a Field Day and didn't care if anyone attended?

Two of the last three Field Day's I have attended, one was operated under my callsign last year. The other two were at a club site I'm not a member of (don't want to give out their name) and I spent a grand total of one hour visiting, and both times I got to operate a grand total of zero minutes.

Part of the reason is that I didn't show up until close to midnight. Part of the reason being I watched my kids and the wife was working. Another that it was freaking HOT, as it usually is around this time of the year the last weekend of June.

The first of these 2 times was 3 years ago. I'd visited this site several times before. A friend of mine had a camper there and so when I would come he'd gladly take a break and let me operate. I'd stay until 3-4am operating (I'm a night owl) and would rack up many contacts/points for the club.

3 years ago, however, I showed up and either my friend closed up for the night or wasn't there at all. When I arrived, no one was around to talk to at this lakeside area, so I couldn't find out who was where. The campers that were there, I didn't want to just walk in as these were campers where people slept, and the lights were out on all of them. I felt like I was intruding and left. It took an hour to get there, and less than 15 minutes later, I was going back home.

Last year we operated from a campground and had a good time, but couldn't get the troops rallied for this year. I decided to give the previous place another try. Unfortunately I couldn't get there earlier than intended, and once again I arrived at midnight. This time, our friend's camper wasn't there, and no one there knew why. My friend and I did go in to one of the campers and PSK31 and 40m voice was in operation. But the stations didn't want to give up the radios to let others operate. Not even an offer of "come see how this works", just basically working the radios oblivious to our presence. We just stood there looking (and being) bored.

The other camper set up had the lights out...again, and the VHF (6m) station was shut off after the band died. The one station from Texas we heard abruptly yelled "YOU'RE A DUPE!!!!" when the operator made a call to him.

Once again I felt that, even though there were friendlier folks there this time around, we were in the way. I left after about 30 minutes, vowing never to return.

This club (among others) tend to forget Field Day is 24 hours, not just 10 hours active, 6 hours slow, and 8 hours active. Some people like myself can't be there until late, when you would think they would be desperate for operators. I operated one year from Oak Ridge and some of the best operating was from 2-6AM, and we got so punchy that stations were not sure if they were listening to Field Day ops, or a bunch of morning show DJs. But we kept it legal and clean...and fun. And the stations calling us were enjoying the show.

Unfortunately I don't know anyone at the Oak Ridge club anymore, and the club environment for me is a touchy subject as it is, and the only reason I went to the lake was because some friends were there, or at least they used to be.

I thought Field Day was supposed to be a welcoming committee and a public event, but several times over the years I didn't feel welcome. With people not knowing who I was (often a good thing) I was made to feel like an outsider.

Back in 1999, I oversaw a Field Day event for a club, and one thing I absolutely ensured was that anyone who showed up at any time was greeted, made to feel welcome, and that people were allowed to operate when it was possible, with no "hogging" of the radios. It was one of the most successful Field Days that club had experienced in years.

I wonder why no one else follows that plan of attack these days?

3 comments:

  1. I just started getting back into Ham about 2 years ago. I decided to check out a local club in the Cincinnati area. Their website said walkins welcome, come in and see what we are all about. When I pulled up in my van(I work for an expediting co that is pretty much the same as a truck driver in a small vehicle) and the talking started. I run a stock, legal, cobra 29lx cb with a wilson 1000 antenna. I keep my transmitions clean and respectful. Because I talk on a cb, I was told I wasn't welcome at a ham club. Didn't matter that I also have my dual band antenna and have had my ham license for 9 years. I didn't let the bother me, I just know that some (not all) hams think they are an elite group that should only allow a certain type of person to join. Still enjoy talking to, and sometimes meeting, hams as I travel through 48 states. I do hope to attend a hamfest and field day soon, have a lot of questions that I know someone could answer. 73's
    KG4RFE

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  2. Well, I can relate to being treated in less than a friendly manner at Field Day. It can dampen the enthusiasm!

    I've also served several times as Field Day chair and as band captain for Field Day stations, and based on observation and participating in the planning and logistics for Field Day, that if you are walking up at midnight, without any prior arrangements, then you're playing the odds.

    You might get a great shift, or you might not. If you don't commit to a shift in advance, that may be interpreted to mean that you value flexibility of schedule above all else.

    Other people that have committed for, say, midnight to 6:00am aren't going to be (in general) entirely happy to give up half their shift for someone showing up at the last possible minute.

    The most common reason (in our club at least) is that these times are difficult to fill and involve someone sacrificing sleep or time or energy where they could be doing something else. While we have some night owls in the club, there are not enough of them, and there are a lot of choices around here for Field Day.

    Of course, it's the expectation that station operators (again, at least in our club) immediately seat interested visiting operators. And, we do exactly that. The plan of attack you mention is what our club does, and it works very well.

    If it's made clear from the get go in Field Day planning that that is the plan and expectation, then the problem of visitors getting the cold shoulder is drastically reduced. If Field Day is approached as more of a contest, then visiting operators are met with less enthusiasm. The night shifts are usually blocked out and staffed with people that assume they are going to operate all night long, and are often not the same sort of people that were welcoming mentors during the day.

    If you want to ensure a friendly reception and productive shift, the best way to guarantee it is to volunteer for Field Day. Yes, this may mean interacting with a club and giving up some schedule freedom (i.e. committing in advance). But, it pays off in terms of being welcomed at the site at 1:13am!

    Thanks for a great post.

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  3. I had a similar experience several years ago. I came in early to the site, and got on the 20 meter rig, which was open. I operated for maybe twenty minutes, with no contacts, and this guy I had met the day before, a radio hog, came out and stood next to me and just stared at me for like five minutes. Heck, maybe it was his radio or something, I don't know, but I got up and left. I left ham radio for about six years, and I'm just getting back into the game. I have no desire to reconnect with the local club again.

    I operated as a 1Delta this year, and hope to operate as a 1Echo next year. I had a blast just doing my thing, and that's how it's going to be from now on.

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