Dayton Hamvention -- the best show on Earth
It's that time again. Getting ready for the best of the best -- the Dayton Hamvention.
Before anything bad happens (raw sewage, anyone?) put on your waders, grab your Purell hand sanitizer, and lets make sure we give the fine folks at Dayton Amateur Radio Association all of the kudos for putting on this fine event.
Now I have a bone to pick. Not with anything associated with the Hamvention -- but with all of the complainers and haters. One of my big pet peeves in life is people that complain, but they either: 1) continue participating in the activity that brings them despair, or 2) don't step up to the plate to change things. In ham radio, as in the rest of life, these people exist. In droves. In some organizations, however, these people are critical to the success of others -- for example, in the average radio club, 10% of the people do 90% of the work. However, the 90% of people that don't do squat still pay the dues, so it makes life a whole lot more fun for the remaining 10%. But that cannot possibly hold true for DARA - if only 10% of them are putting on the Hamvention, that must be one gigantic club. But I digress.
So I'm going to address each one of the complaints that I hear each year. This is all my opinion, folks, so I may be wrong. To some I will be wrong about everything. That's fine. Also all figures I am using are either from observation or sourced somewhere on the web. But it's close enough.
#1. The Hara Arena is a dump.
Yes. It is. It's no McCormick Place, to be sure. It is said that it has been a dump for over three decades. Probably has been for much longer. I've only been going for 8 years and it hasn't declined that much. Frankly, it doesn't have much further to decline. But, if it does fall down, remember that Hamvention is only 3 days a yearÖ if the building does fall down, there is a better than 96% chance that it wonít happen during Hamvention. Always look on the bright side of life.
However, it hasn't fallen down yet. It still (presumably) has an occupancy permit. And there seem to be enough emergency exits, so I'm not worried about getting trampled.
The Hara is, probably, dirt cheap to rent. That is another thing we need to keep in mind. Remember, the DARA is a charity. Run by volunteers. Iím sure that cost enters into EVERY discussion they have about Hamvention. I work for a Global Fortune 500 company, and cost enters into every discussion that we have at work.
The bathrooms, frankly, are pretty bad. At 9:30 on Friday morning, they are Amoco gas station bathroom quality. By 10:00 they are awful. Although the number of female hams is embarrassingly low, we can be somewhat thankful that most of us are males. Because 90% of what we need to do in the potty we can do standing up. The other 10% we can usually hold. When the time comes where we cannot, you simply need to plan far enough in advance to ensure you find a stall with an adequate supply of toilet paper, and swab the seat with Purell. When you reach this point, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
And this bathroom talk brings us to a corollary:
#1a. The geyser of sewage in the flea market.
Iíll give you that one. This was unfortunate. It happens. I was surprised that most of the Hara bathrooms empty through a single 5Ē sewer main (from looking at the cleanout plugs). I have seen complaints that this was DARAís fault. Absolutely not. The responsibility falls on Hara for this. They are the landlord. I have also seen reports that DARA could have been responsible for a (name your favorite plague-like disease) outbreak if one had occured. Nope, still Hara (although I imagine that DARA would have probably been sued as well). Should DARA have shut down the Hamvention? Probably not. Should the Montgomery County health department have shut the place down? Probably. But they didnít. Why? Because if the county told everybody to go home, there would have been less money spent in the county. Thatís my opinion only. Really, though, it was cleaned up and patched up relatively quickly.
#1b. The Hara Food
Iíve heard all sorts of complaints about the food. Seriouslyówhat do you want from these volunteers that run the food booths Ė filet mignon? Itís hamfest food. And I think itís pretty darned good. Especially the Hara Pizza. And yes, thereís a dive-style bar on site too should you need a bottle of cold brew. Good enough for meÖ and there are decent restaurants to hit afterwards as well (RIP ďShuckiní ShackĒ)
#1c. (Consumer Electronics Show/ ProMat/(insert trade show here) was much nicer than Hamvention. Why canít Hamvention be as nice and clean?
Because this is not a trade show. Itís a ham radio convention. If it were a professional trade show everyone would be going around in suits and ties. And then I wouldnít go. And besidesÖ look at us slobs! At least I wear a clean T-shirt.
#2. Dayton (the city) is a dump. The Hamvention should be moved toÖ (Columbus. Indianapolis. Fort Wayne. Timbuktu.)
Dayton has unfortunately fallen on hard times. However, Dayton is (hold on to your hatsÖ) WHERE THE DAYTON AMATEUR RADIO ASSOCIATION is based (hence the first ďDĒ in DARA). Do you honestly expect the DARA, who, by the way, puts the entire Hamvention on for us, to even attempt to move the Hamvention out of state? Do you understand what kind of an undertaking this event is? This thing is big. Luckily, they can do it in their backyard. The DARA is a great bunch of dedicated people. And yeah, their radio clubís treasury is probably larger than your net worth. And mine. But they arenít superheroes. Can you imagine the logistics if they tried to move it far away? The Columbus Fairgrounds have been mentioned frequently, and that might be doable, but itís still a stretch for DARA. And even if they could move it, people would be upset with the change. Attendance would likely be down the first year, and this would reduce the revenue at a time where they are probably paying for a higher-cost venue
Now look at it this way. Although it is a dump, the Hara Arena is the IDEAL place for this convention. Just enough inside space. Just enough outside space. Yeah, no parking, but they deal with this well. But the entire event has evolved into something that perfectly fits into the Hara Arena. Can you imagine the planning it would take to massage the Hamvention into a different space?
#2a: But Iím willing to pay $50 for a ticket if they moved to a more expensive venue (yes, Iíve heard that one before too)
Really? And youíre complaining about the $4.00 gas you need to buy to get there? (see below). Again, price goes up, the number of cheap-ass hams that buy tickets goes down. In an era where everybody is complaining that attendance is going down (actually itís not, see below) this would make it go down much faster.
#2b. The ARRL should move HamventionÖ.
Believe it or not, I have heard this one. THE HAMVENTION IS NOT OPERATED BY THE ARRL. IT IS RUN BY DARA. DARA literally owns the Hamvention trademark.
#2c. The Hamvention is too far from my house. They should move it around each year.
Sorry you chose to live in (insert your city here). Why donít you start your own DARA-quality club and see what you can do with it.
Seriously, to be fair, Ohio hasnít been the mean population center of the USA since 1870. So, to be fair to everybody, somebody in Wright County, Missouri needs to step up to the plate and put on a Hamvention-quality show before the 2020 census moves the population center further West. (Seriously, the population of Wright County, MO is 17,955 (2000). A Hamvention there would more than double the populationÖ )
3. The Hamvention, like ham radio, is dying. We should just let it die.
Ham radio is not dying.
Let me say it again.
HAM RADIO IS NOT DYING.
Sure it isnít growing by leaps and bounds. Thatís our fault. But there are over 700,000 licensees in the US. Sure, not every one of them is active. THATíS OUR FAULT TOO. But, letís assume for a second that every attendee to the Hamvention is licensed, and that every attendee is a US citizen.
In 2011, 22312 people attended Hamvention (which was the highest since 2002 and a 13% increase from 2010). With the above assumptions, 3.2% of the licensed amateurs in the US attended last year. Thatís not bad. Not stellar, but not badÖ and not dying. Attendance has increased steadily since 2008. Still not bad, in this era of high gas pricesÖ. And that brings us to:
3a. Gas prices will keep people from coming to Hamvention.
With all due respect, shut up about gas prices. Per gallon, gasoline remains one of the cheapest fluids on the planet.
Letís make some assumptions. Letís say you live in Davenport Iowa and want to go to Dayton. Letís assume a round trip of 1000 miles and that you get 20 miles per gallon. Thatís 50 gallons of gas. Assume gas at $4.00 a gallon (a bit high for right now). Thatís $200 of gas. Not too bad for a long weekend trip. But itís so much higher than when it was $3.00 per gallon a few years ago. That means the cost of gas for this trip went up a whopping $50. Big whoop. Youíre only paying $20 for a show ticket. But if youíre smart, you can bring a friend or two and watch your share of the gas take a nosedive.
3b. The economy will keep people from coming to Hamvention
I can see this happening. But, on the other side, people need something to look forward too, especially when times are tough. Iíve been going each year since 2005. Here are the numbers, somewhat unofficial but close enoughÖ
I did notice 2007 and 2008 going downÖ but I also noticed 2009, 2010, and 2011 steadily increasingÖ what the hell happened in 2011 to bring that kind of an increase? Sure, 2011 was nothing like 1991 through 1995 where it was between 33000 and 35000 each year (wonder what the bathrooms were like THOSE years..) But you canít tell me that the economy significantly affected the attendance between 2008 and today. If it did, can you imagine the crowds that would have come?
#4. There are better hamfests
Yes. There are better hamfests. But this isnít a hamfest. Itís a convention. It is out of the league of a mere hamfests. Hell, itís out of the league of other conventions. Ham-Com in Texas (not far from my home) is fantastic. Itís two days, itís bigger than most hamfests, itís in a nice facilityÖ but itís no Hamvention. I can do Ham-Com in one morning. The flea market is small. Itís still great, mind you, but it doesnít hold a candle to Hamvention.
Your local hamfests are important, believe me. Never stop going to them because you think Dayton is better. Hamfests are crucial to the hobby.
LookÖseriously; there are two kinds of people who attend Hamvention:
#1 Those who look forward to the event each year. We make our hotel reservations 11 months in advance. We order tickets as soon as the website offers them. We look to YouTube for K0NEBís photo montages. We walk the flea markets and exhibits over and over. We look forward to seeing old friends, and meeting new friends. We look forward to seeing old junque and new junque. We marvel at the new Kenwood or Yeasu that is so expensive it requires financing. We make fun of the guy selling the cheap automatic wire strippers that break after the third strip. We buy bags of Anderson PowerPoles and PL-259s ďjust in caseĒ even though we have a drawer full of them at home. We still love the magic of radio and the magic of Hamvention.
#2 Those who go to Hamvention to complain about the food, the architecture, and the city. They complain at the Hamvention. They go home and complain online. Then they come back the next year to complain some more. Heck, at least DARA is making some money off of them.
Which group are you in?
Cliffs Notes, please? Anybody?
The AR15/M16 - Irritating practically everyone since 1960...
Hamvention is Hamvention and if it were not in Dayton would not be Hamvention. No complaints about food here. I'll get my pretzel, my bratwurst and, of course, my Cowgirl Express hamburger-"Yeehah!"
If you have to worry about the cost of HF e-mail, you can't afford the boat.
CW: The mode that accomplishes the most with the least circuitry, the least spectrum, and the least power.
What hath God wrought?
He hath wrought that pounding brass still kicks .- ... ...
If I would drive ALL the way from SAN DIEGO to go to it, and spend $1000 in gas, you KNOW there is something very SPECIAL about the Hamvention!!!
The Hamvention is as much HAM RADIO as you can get! Even as miserable as the Hara is, it is WELL WORTH IT just to enjoy the very finest our Hobby has to offer.
Dayton is truly the MECCA of Ham Radio, and always will be!
OH, Hamvention food???? There is a White Castle conveniently located just a mile or so West of the Arena right there on Shiloh Springs road at the big Mall.
CU all next weekend!
I'm the kind that's waiting to come as soon as I can afford it. Maybe next year it looks like the XYL finally got a real job.
"If it aint broke don't fix it. "If you can't fix it get a bigger hammer."
I'm ready complete with Hamvention hat!
now with true viterbi decoder!
If you're speaking of the Salem Mall west of Hara on Shiloh Springs Road, it doesn't exist anymore, as it's been gone for several years. The land on which it once was located is now just one large empty lot.
Originally Posted by WA6MHZ
However, the White Castle you speak of, as well as other fast food restaurants, are still there... located at the Shiloh Spring Road and Salem Avenue intersection.
This will make my 37th trek to Dayton for Hamvention... 26 of those years were spent as a member of the amateur radio industry, thus I was pretty much tied to our booth a large portion of each day. Now in retirement, I have time to wander around, talk with old friends and former colleagues within the industry, as well as those fellow hams I meet on the air, and peruse the flea market.
Hara Arena has been a dump for at least 25 to 30 years. Don't ask a fellow attendee about Hara - rather, ask an exhibitor. They will certainly tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Hara! Smaller shows have decent exhibitor lounges where an exhibitor can catch his or her breath, and have a bite to eat, in decent surroundings. Not so with Dayton... DARA spends little of its money catering to those who "pull most of the financial load," i.e. the exhibitors. Here again, ask any exhibitor if they would actually do Dayton unless they absolutely had to, or were expected to... the unanimous answer would be a very strong "No." Let me qualify this statement slightly, as the aforementioned statement applies primarily to manufacturers, and not dealers as dealers pull in a significant amount of sales over the 3 days.
Each exhibitor pays around $600 for each 8' x 10' booth section. When you add up booth expenses, drayage ship in and ship out, booth draping and accessories costs (charged by Hara Arena separately), travel costs, lodging and food for all those who work the booth, total expenses can easily add up to tens of thousands of dollars for some large exhibitors, and typically three to five thousand for small to moderate sized exhibitors. Of course, this doesn't even begin to compare to commercial or military shows where an 8' x 10' booth space would cost upwards of $5K simply for the booth space alone.
Overall, Dayton, as well as other conventions and hamfest, is about people... meeting friends and sharing stories. And, this is true if you're an attendee or a commercial exhibitor.
Given that choice, I would rather eat at the Hamvention!
Originally Posted by WA6MHZ
The wife checked out the prices for food at the Hamvention! They are going to hit u up (OMG!!!!) $4.75 for a Hot Dog!!
We are doing STEAK and SHAKE this year. Pricey but delicious! I had 2 Triples last night! WHiz ON WHite CASTLE!
Dayton and the Hamfest et al are "dumps". Let them die. He is right and thousands of other hams are wrong. Yep, that about covers it.
Originally Posted by N8YX
P.S. Could someone please get us pics of the overflowing rest rooms again? Extra points for flotsam visible.