Amateur Radio Field Day is this Saturday and Sunday, June 23 and 24. The event is always held the last full weekend of June, and is put on by amateur-radio groups across the country. Nationally, it began in 1933 and remains the country’s most popular amateur-radio event.

Participating in amateur radio can be entertaining, but one of its primary functions is to serve as a means of emergency communication in the event of a disaster or power-down situation. Amateur-radio operators have long assisted FEMA, the Red Cross and other emergency-services personnel with disseminating information during times of crisis. Many hams also serve as National Weather Service weather spotters. Field Day gives radio operators and others an opportunity to practice for emergency events.

In Crossville, Field Day will be held in the grassy area between the Homestead Tower Museum and Homestead Elementary School, at the split of 127 and Highway 68.

Setup for Field Day is Friday. Club members put up temporary awnings, pop-up canopies and tents to house various displays and exhibits. Members operate at different frequencies on varying bands – with operators transmitting on both VHF and UHF wavelengths; some will even be demonstrating Morse code transmissions.

105.7 News spoke with Dave Dabay, a member of the Cumberland Plateau Amateur Radio Club – CPARC – which sponsors the local event.

Part of the setup activities will include putting up the various antennas used for transmitting. Dabay said they’re bringing in a portable antenna tower from Lake Tansi. “It’s a pretty good example of how you would put up a tower at your home, setting it, leveling it, making sure it goes up smoothly,” he said. “It has guy wires [for support and stability]. It’ll be available hopefully by lunchtime Saturday, when this thing kicks off officially.”

The on-air portion of Field Day will run continuously, starting Saturday afternoon.

“No stop, no sleep, no nothing,” Dabay said with a sense of enthusiasm approaching that of a child headed to an outing at the zoo. “It starts at 1:00 on Saturday and finishes at 1:00 on Sunday.”

Many “hams” will park their campers or RVs on site so they can remain at the event overnight.

However, Field Day is not just for licensed operators. “We usually have somewhere between 30 and 50 people [visitors],” Dabay said. “They stop by because they’re intrigued. If the weather is really bad, oddly enough, we often get more – because people can’t do whatever they were planning to do.”

During Field Day, amateur-radio clubs around the country engage in friendly competitions. Dabay said each club gets awarded a certain number of points for each visitor to its site, as well as for each contact reached at a distant station.

For participants, Field Day often embodies a kind of carnival atmosphere. But Field Day is as much about education as it is about having fun. Dabay said CPARC members walk visitors around to the various tents, answer questions and provide information about amateur radio. “About 30 percent come back to ask more questions,” he said, adding many of those, “pursue an amateur-radio license within a year or so.”

Members of the public can get an opportunity to see what operating an amateur-radio station is like. Non-hams are encouraged to help build a radio set – from assembling components and checking connections to plugging in antennas.

But there’s no pressure to participate. If someone wants to watch from the sidelines, that’s fine, too. “We’re not pushy; we’re not pushing this on anyone,” Dabay said.

And what about licensed hams who haven’t got their own equipment and may be reticent to “crack the mic” for the first time?

“We’ll have what we refer to as a GOTA – Get On The Air – station,” he said, “to help newly licensed people get over that initial fear of being on the air.”

This is Dabay’s fifth Field Day as a member of CPARC. And he said it never gets old. “For me, the biggest thing is meeting new people and explaining what ham radio does. It’s perceived to be an old guys’ game, but there’s so much more… computers, 3D printers, widgets and gadgets,” he said. “I enjoy the teaching, the coursework, the license prep – and to see people accomplish that goal” of becoming licensed amateur-radio operators.

“Come out,” he invited. “Just come out and see it; it’ll be a great day!”

(Photo courtesy CPARC.net)