If you live in North America and have an interest in becoming a ham radio operator, this is the weekend to check out what amateur radio is all about, and meet local radio enthusiasts.
It’s Field Day!
What is Field Day? I’ll quote from the ARRL, who sponsors the event:
“ARRL Field Day is the single most popular on-the-air event held annually in the US and Canada. On the fourth weekend of June of each year, more than 35,000 radio amateurs gather with their clubs, groups or simply with friends to operate from remote locations.
Field Day is a picnic, a camp out, practice for emergencies, an informal contest and, most of all, FUN!
It is a time where many aspects of Amateur Radio come together to highlight our many roles. While some will treat it as a contest, other groups use the opportunity to practice their emergency response capabilities. It is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate Amateur Radio to the organizations that Amateur Radio might serve in an emergency, as well as the general public. For many clubs, ARRL Field Day is one of the highlights of their annual calendar.
The contest part is simply to contact as many other stations as possible and to learn to operate our radio gear in abnormal situations and less than optimal conditions.”
Many Field Day sites have a GOTA (Get On The Air) station where non-licensed individuals are welcome to play radio. It’s a fantastic way to try your hand at transmitting with a little guidance and encouragement from the more experienced. Indeed, even if there is no GOTA station, you will often be invited to try out the mic.
You’ll find that ham radio operators are very welcoming on Field Day–after all, spreading the word about the fun of amateur radio is what it’s all about. Indeed, I’ve shown up unannounced to a number of Field Days over the years; once I even got some serious radio time with the Charlotteville Amateur Radio Club while on vacation in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
This year, I’m joining the Québec Amateur Radio Club (Club Radio Amateur de Québec) and I’m looking forward to it very much!
Keep in mind that there are many shortwave listeners among the amateur radio community; indeed, many hams became interested in the hobby through SWLing.
The ARRL has made it quite easy to find registered Field Day locations in your region. Click here to find a local Field Day event near you–and have a great Field Day!
Thanks for the posting. Was passing thru so I stopped by the Iowa City event in a city park and talked with some friendly club members. One brought his son to work the gota station and three others were working contacts around North America from 10 to 80 meters. I mentioned at length to a couple of them that a quiet receive-only antenna can help many hams to hear low strength contacts above noise levels. This park was quiet being on the edge of town and next to a cemetery! I may just go ahead and pass the tech test and get a cheap handheld to try it out.
Well, I’ve tried to get on LPFM radio today via WTSQ-LP, wtsq.org , to talk about local Field Day 2016 events, but due to the West Virginia State Of Emergency on the continued flooding, got pre-empted. They did say that they would announce my Field Day info by mentioning my site vk.com/realfreeradio . Damn weather…. Might have to Field Day for real as an emergency communications instead of contest.
http://www.arrl.org has a “field day locator” if you want to find one in your area
There are many field days all over the world! Don’t hesitate to visit the local hams if you find a few tents and LOTS of antennas. Field days are opportunities to experiment with larger and more antennas than you could erect at home.
Here in Germany we have at least two kinds of field days: Each year we have two contests where “portable” stations are the most valuable to work – one date for Morse code and one for voice (SSB). Naturally all stations work over the same weekend. Google for “CW field day” or “SSB Field day”.
The other kind is a social event, most often organized by a local chapter of the national ham radio club, like the DARC here in Germany. The dates are very varied. Here technical experiments are important, but talking to each other is generally much more so. A BBQ is mantadory.
Very good points! Thanks!
Even if your local Field Day station doesn’t have a “GOTA” station set up, don’t hesitate to go and check it out anyway. Unlicensed enthusiasts will always be welcome to sit in and make some contacts!! That’s what Field Day is all about!
The GOTA station significance is simply for the clubs that are going for points in the contest, not an indicator of whether or not a on-licensed individual will be allowed to get on the air.
Yes, you’re absolutely correct, Dan! Clubs are typically very welcoming of visitors! This is also a good way to check out the vibe of local clubs if you just moved to a new area. I know a few SWLs who got bitten by the ham bug after visiting a Field Day site.
I don’t think they are doing it anymore (their website hasn’t changed since 2014), but one of the university clubs here would set up downtown. They’d use the regular antennas on the roof (maybe ten floors total), but set up at ground level, I assume with a generator. So they were easy to visit, and could interact with any passersby. Not as much fun as setting up in the country, or some more isolated park, but better for PR.
The first field day I went to was actually just after I passed the test, but before I received my license. Very wet, it was 1972 and we got the edge of some hurricane. I saw an FT-101 for the first time, someone had one and brought it for the club to use..