Hamvention 2022 (2020)

Until a few years ago, I had no idea that things like a “hamfest” existed. My first was our club’s first hamfest, the ECI Hamfest, in 2019. I really wasn’t sure what to expect but it got me hooked once I started seeing the fellowship of the “old man”, swap meets indoors and out, testing for new licenses and upgrades, and, of course, the food. Ever since that first hamfest, I had the bug and wanted to visit as many as I practically could. I had heard of the “big one”, or Mecca for Ham Radio, called “Hamvention” and it was in Dayton which was only an hour-ish away. So I bought a ticket to go!

Then, COVID hit. Not to downplay the impact it had on people’s lives, but any and all hamfests seemed to be put on indefinite hold. As the months drew nearer to Hamvention, it was obvious that this, too, would be canceled. Then the next hamfest was canceled followed by another. ECI Hamfest was determined to go on and with the sign-off from our Board of Health we had a plan to make it as safe as possible.

Enter 2021. Things are looking better around the world however not quite to the point where I was sure Hamvention, and all other hamfests, would be able to continue. The committee was at least kind enough to offer to forward any tickets purchased from 2020 to 2021 assuming they would have the event which, spoiler, they did not. Many other hamfests also decided not to continue in 2021 however some did.

2022 promised many better things. We had more people getting vaccinated, deaths were on the decline, serious hospitalizations were on the decline. From many perspectives, COVID was on its way to becoming less of a big deal. And Hamvention was promised to be on. If not, it was promised to never come back. What a shock!

The Rules

I’ve learned a few things early on with any hamfest:

  1. Get there as early as possible on the first day. All the good deals will be had in the first hour of the hamfest and that radio you’ve been looking for is guaranteed to go quick.
  2. Go to the outdoor vendors first. The indoor vendors either brought enough product that they’ll be there a while or they are banking on selling larger ticket items to cover the cost of the table. Your deals are outdoors where the tables are cheap.
  3. Talk. If nothing else, you’ll have a good conversation about things you’re both likely passionate about. The bonus is that they may have that radio or power supply or other gear that you want and would be willing to take lower than asking price.
  4. Eat. I don’t know what else to say about this one. Surely there is some good cuisine you’d enjoy.
  5. If you can, stay until the bitter end. If you thought the first hour deals were good, wait until the last hour. Many hams bring things to sell that they really REALLY don’t want to take back home. Chances are that you’ll find many hams offering what they have left at ridiculous price drops or even free of charge. It may be junk and it may not be, but you decide if it has a special place in your home and snag it at the best price available.

The Fear of Missing Out

That being said, Hamvention was like no other hamfest I had ever attended. The outside vendors occupied what seemed like 40 square miles. Row after row of tables and vans just overflowing with equipment. As a ham told me, “if you can’t find it at Dayton, it doesn’t exist.” I was in search of a Kenwood TH-FH6a, a nice handheld tri-bander that also receives HF SSB. And it existed! Only one table in all the lands (that I could search in the first few hours) and he had it available at an excellent price. Only problem was that it was missing the charger because he left it at home. For reasons still unknown to me, I passed on the deal. Maybe I was overwhelmed with shock from actually being at Hamvention or maybe I was hoping to find another. Either way, I missed out on that one as it was gone the next time I swung around. Oh well.


Some hamfests have forums or presentations on a topic around ham radio. I really think these set a hamfest apart from a swap meet. Hamvention was not in short supply of those either. With 3 forum halls (plus an informal space in one of the expo halls), there was a full schedule for all 3 days. I was especially interested in the ARISS-USA, AMSAT, Fast Track on Propagation, and POTA forums.

ARISS is always fascinating. Not only do they put amateur radios on the International Space Station for APRS or SSTV, but they actually work with astronauts to talk with school kids using ground stations! AMSAT is a major part of that however I missed out on this forum. Too many things to do! Michael Burnette’s Fast Track series is a great way to learn and get your license. His talk on propagation and how the Fresnel Zone affects your signal was one of the more fun ways to learn. I tried getting in to the POTA forum however it was completely full at 10 minutes prior to the talk. Maybe next year!

What’s Next?

I plan on being more active in local hamfests for sure. I already volunteer for parking assistance, security, VE testing, cleanup, etc. I want to add more to our local hamfest and will be looking for what draws others to the event. I like parts of it and other people may like other parts. If you have an idea of something that is missing in your local hamfests, let me know! I want to make them more fun and draw more crowds. Maybe I will see you at the next one!

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