This is the first of a series of short monthly introductions to “Field Day” (FD) and why it’s a unique annual event for everyone regardless of age, gender, technical knowledge, operating experience and interests. These articles will provide an account of what takes place each year over the fourth weekend in June – to remind old friends why they return year after year and to encourage new friends to come along and join in.
What is Field Day?
Organised by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), Field Day is the most popular on-air event held annually in the US and Canada. More than 35,000 radio amateurs head out with their clubs, groups or friends to operate away from their club or home base stations and gather at remote locations ‘in the field’. WARA’s traditional venue of Heritage Acres in Saanichton is easily accessible and provides excellent facilities for hams and non-ham visitors alike (heritageacresbc.ca). You may already be familiar with FD but haven’t participated yet, or have heard the name but don’t really know what it’s about. Perhaps you’re not even be aware of the event. Whichever category you come under, this and subsequent posts will give you a good introduction.
In no particular order, Field Day is three things:
- A Social Gathering
- Camaraderie & friendship
- 24 hours of continuous operating over the Field Day weekend
- Eating & drinking
- Showing off our hobby to friends and family and members of the public
- Emergency Preparedness
- Demonstrating the vital role amateur radio plays in emergency preparedness
- Experimenting with antennas and portable equipment using ‘off-the-grid’ power sources
- Operating radio stations in less than ideal conditions
- Although there is a competitive element to Field Day which many enjoy, it is NOT a contest
- Discover new operating modes and try them out
- Enjoy the excellent Saturday early evening barbeque
- Other interests for non-ham members of the family
What are the goals?
- To make contact with as many stations as possible across North America in a 24-hour period, via different modes, accruing as many points as possible. A final log is submitted to the ARRL after the event and league-tables published in their monthly magazine QST and online.
- To give a flavour of using radios away from the shack in an unfamiliar location while gaining experience in meeting emergency preparedness challenges.
- To demonstrate and promote our hobby to members of the public, government and served agencies.
- To have a great time with like-minded enthusiasts.
Who participates and what can I do at Field Day?
Hams, non-hams, friends, family. Everyone is welcome. Regardless of whether you’re an experienced operator, newly licenced, don’t have a licence yet, or are simply curious about what’s going on with this group of people launching bits of wire high into the trees, there will be plenty to interest you. Come along and do some operating, assist with antenna installation and station setup, chat with fellow enthusiasts, enjoy the Saturday evening barbeque and fine summer weather and help with tear-down when the event finishes around noon on Sunday.
‘GOTA’ station for 2017
In 2017, WARA will be activating a ‘Get On The Air’ (GOTA) station for the first time. This provides the ideal opportunity for novice or newly licensed amateurs, or non-licensed persons to experience first-hand the fun of amateur radio by allowing them to GET ON THE AIR (GOTA). Make some contacts speaking into the microphone or send CW or digital messages all under the friendly supervision of a licenced control operator. The intent and the spirit of a GOTA station is to provide an opportunity to get valuable on-the-air experience, and gain sufficient confidence to progress to operating the regular club stations in the future.
What other activities can I participate in?
- Try live station logging at the SSB and CW HF stations, make some VHF simplex contacts with a hand-held radio, or operate a data station to pass digital messages. If you’re nervous around a microphone or uncertain about transmitting a live signal, don’t worry, you’ll be ‘elmered’ by experienced and helpful operators
- There will be a members’ buy-and-sell table with plenty of interesting items to check out.
- For non-hams and general visitors, the weather is usually clear and sunny over field day weekend and the site is an ideal picnic location
- WARA members often provide direct observation of the sun through suitably designed telescopes to view sunspots which help the HF bands
- The location itself is a museum of historical artefacts with many old tractors and steam engines. It’s also fascinating to visit the early 20th Century schoolhouse, preserved exactly as it was at the time. Visit the Field Day location web site at heritageacresbc.ca
- Simply enjoy the buzz of activity, food and friendship over the weekend.
February’s posting will look at the technical aspects of Field Day, with subsequent months discussing operating modes and techniques, point scoring strategy and computer logging. Be sure to follow the WARA Twitter feed (@WARA) and Facebook to keep up to date with news and announcements.
73, Steve VA7KH