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Field Day!

posted Jun 19, 2011, 11:03 AM by Charles Boling   [ updated Jun 19, 2011, 7:45 PM ]
This Saturday is ARRL Field Day!   What exactly is Field Day?  The complete answer isn't short & simple, because (as is true with many holidays) it has different aspects that appeal to different people! 

Field Day was established by the ARRL in 1933 "to test ‘portables’ wherever they may be available".  The idea is to see how well you can operate when you're not in the comfort of your own shack.  An emphasis on portability, non-grid power, and homebrew "make do" installations is often present at field day activities.

Sounds like a good way to see how you might operate in an emergency, doesn't it?

Though you can certainly participate in Field Day by yourself, it's a lot more fun with others.  I think that most radio clubs put together Field Day teams, and most of those welcome everyone to their event, so there's no need to be alone on Field Day weekend!

The only truly official part of Field Day is a contest lasting from 11:00 AM PDT Saturday to 2:00 PM PDT Sunday.  The contest itself is, however, a small part of the big overall Field Day picture, and many people -- including those who don't consider Field Day to be an appropriate Sabbath activity -- take a more relaxed sample of the event.  There is plenty of work to be done in advance of a big setup, so many sites start setting up Friday afternoon.  That offers the opportunity to help out for over 24 hours if you wish, while still leaving Sunday free.

As I said, the contest itself is only part of Field Day.  EmComm practice isn't the limit, either.  Over the years, Field Day has become an opportunity for the amateur radio community to "reach out" and publicize what we do, and to give people a chance to check it out, who wouldn't normally.  Often, Field Day events are held in public locations, and involve displays from local emergency response organizations and local media.  In addition, groups are encouraged to have a "Get On The Air" station where non-hams can have a chance to get a taste of talking on the radio  (What?  I get to climb on a fire engine and talk to someone from Australia on a big radio at the same place?)   It's also a great excuse to just get out and enjoy some fresh air, go camping with family and friends, and have a good time.

Official field day information

An article from QST about the history of field day

Nearby Events

Here are three of the field day groups happening in our area.  Feel free to submit information about other events you want me to include here.

LCARA (Longview, WA)

In years past, most of the activity I've seen has been in the clubhouse on Lone Oaks Rd.  This year, it's being held at a site west of town, and they're also providing open testing for obtaining/upgrading amateur radio licenses at the same time!  And, the treats are always good...

CCARC (Vancouver, WA)

This is always a big event.  Held as usual in front of SEH America / Pulse Electronics, club members start setting up about 14:00 on Friday, enjoy an ice cream social that evening, start getting serious Saturday morning, with public demonstrations from them and participating agencies, tours and hands-on activities in the afternoon.  Saturday evening the public crowd dies off, and they enjoy a potluck while the contesters continue working away in shifts through the night, waiting for the smell of pancakes in the morning to tell them that they're into the home stretch.

CARS (Colton, OR)

In years past I've hit all 3 of these events in a single weekend, camping overnight in Vancouver, but this year I'm going to slow down and focus on this one.  CARS is a predominantly-LDS group, so it's always a family-friendly atmosphere -- the major thing that's drawing me away from W7AIA's gathering.  Their activities are relaxed and low-key -- no hard-core contesters in this group!  Saturday morning's a great time to show up if you don't want to camp Friday night.  Things wind down Saturday afternoon so that everyone can get cleaned up and get home in time to get plenty of sleep.  Geek-wise, they're going to be playing with HSMM-Mesh networks this year.  I understand that CARES is invited this year too, so it may be bigger than usual.  There is also a rumor of amateur RC airplane flights, and  Lonny's black powder cannon is usually a blast.  Colton is a long ways to go, but it's a great group, and I expect to have a good time.  It'll be even more fun if you show up!

I'm going to be taking my 5 oldest kids down with me Friday afternoon and camping overnight; then my wife's coming down in the morning with the other 4 to join us for the day's activities.  (Don't get any ideas; my place is going to be guarded by computerized artillery, a team of guerrilla commandos with air support, and 13 Dobermans.   Would you believe a herd of attack elk, a flock of killer chickens, and my mother-in-law?  How about skittish elk, indifferent chicks, a tired mother-in-law, and a father-in-law who'll talk your ears off?)

Let's see.  I get to:
  • Go camping
  • Eat food that's normally against my diet
  • Spend time with my family
  • Hang out with my friends
  • Play radio
  • Practice emergency preparedness
...all at the same time!  How efficient is that?    Let's hope the weather holds -- camping in the rain just isn't quite as much fun!