One of the perks of being in Florida in February is the opportunity to attend the Orlando “HamCation“. This is the 2nd largest of it’s type in the country with the Dayton “HamVention” being the largest. I’ve attended Dayton probably 20 times or so over the years, but this was a first for me to attend the Orlando gathering.
Both events, along with hundreds of other much smaller shows around the country are shows that attract Amateur Radio (ham) Operators where they have an opportunity to buy and sell at the flea market, discover new products presented by the manufacturer’s reps, attend educational forums, meet friends they’ve talked to on the air, eat food trailer goodies, and basically just have a good time rubbing elbows with other like-minded folks.
The Back Story …
I was introduced to Amateur Radio in the late ’60’s when I was about 12 or 13 years old. A neighbor of mine, a kindly rolly-polly white haired man named Mr. Rapin was assembling a HUGE antenna of sorts on a very tall tower in his back yard.
Being curious (and bored) kids, my buddy Eddie and I rode our bikes down the block to see what Mr. Rapin was up to. He took four of us neighborhood kids under his wing and that summer kept us off the streets by allowing us to spend time in his radio “shack” listening to him talk to folks around the corner and around the world.
Mr. Rapin inspired the four of us neighborhood boys to take an evening adult education course (taught by Mrs. Penny) at one of the local schools, study for, and ultimately pass the F.C.C Amateur Radio Exam. Three of us (Herb WB8BHK, Ed WB8BHL, and Dave WB4EWS formerly WB8BHY) now live in different areas of the country but still stay in touch weekly if not daily.
Al Rapin (WA8BVP) has been a “Silent Key” for many years now but Eddie and Dave and I still talk about him and the effect he had on our young teenage years by keeping us out of trouble.
Back to the point of the story …
Kathy and I were staying at the Escapee’s RV Club park at Bushnell, FL and we drove the coach over to the Central Florida Fairgrounds on Wednesday so we would be assured of a good spot in time for the hamfest to open on Friday. We were rewarded with a prime spot at the north end of the fairgrounds against the lake.
We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were parked in the same area as a good-sized group of RV’ers from the WBCCI (Wally Byam Caravan Club International). The WBCCI members are owners of Airstream RV products and this is the company that Wally Byam started in California back in the 30’s. They are still in business today and being owners of an Airstream motorhome ourselves, Kathy and I were interested and took a tour of the Airstream factory, now in Jackson Center, OH back in October of 2017. You can see my post about that tour by following this link.
The fairgrounds accommodated hundreds of RV’s and most of them sported antennas of some sort as the hams were there “living the dream” and soaking in all they could. Of course not everyone was in an RV, many just drove their car in from surrounding states and were staying at nearby motels. But being right there on the grounds for all the action was great!
The pictures below show just a spattering of what when on at the event. My buddy Ed who has lived in Orlando for over 25 years now came on over with his wife Sandy and the girls took off doing what girls do while us boys toured the flea market pointing at some of the old “boat anchors” as they’re referred to now because of their size and weight and picking up what goodies we could afford.
You’ll note that some of the pictures below look a bit “cloudy” because of the heavy fog each morning, but they give you an idea of where we camped and the inside of some of the buildings.
Unfortunately our friend Dave (WB4EWS) wasn’t able to join us at the HamCation as he had to attend a business meeting in Hawaii (tough job, eh?)
But we will all be together again this May in Dayton for the annual Dayton HamVention. Our son David (N8SVS) and grandson Garret will also be joining us in Dayton as they live only about 3 hours away in north central Ohio.
In the meantime, very best “73 de WB8BHK” (hamspeak for Goodbye from WB8BHK)
Maybe I’ll find you later down the log book!