Dayton Hamvention 2019.
In May 2019, I managed to arrange to go for the first time to the USes largest and the world’s second largest (after Tokyo) Hamfest in Xenia near Dayton in Ohio USA. I was going as a member of the ICQPodcast team and we all shared an AirBnB in Lebanon. that all went very well and we got to see each other for the first time in person in some cases.
Travel route for me was from Munich to Dublin, where I met up with Colin and we both took advantage of the fact that in the Dublin airport, you can process all of the Immigration checks before you get on the plane, meaning you can leave the airport directly when you arrive in the US. This was good as we were also both only travelling with cabin baggage to enable a fast getaway meeting the rest of the European part of the team who arrived 2 hours earlier and picked up our rental van before we arrived. The plan was to drive to the AirBnB in Lebanon which was in the Dayton area, where the three US members of the team were already waiting for us. Leaving Chicago Airport at 3pm – we should be there by 10:30pm allowing for a 1-hour time zone change. We arrived at a couple of minutes before midnight after a stressful drive. With traffic jams, road works and accidents it took 3 hours to get out of Chicago – which should have taken 30 minutes or so! This was followed by some Interstate highways with potholes and broken surfaces which would be more like we would find in an industrial estate in Europe. To call these “Interstate Highways” is an insult to highway builders the world-over! They were atrocious!
If I ever travel to Dayton again it will not be with a car from Chicago over these roads!
But what about the event itself?
Having been to Friedrichshafen HAM Radio 6 times and having heard to horror stories of earlier Hamventions, I was not expecting the same “5-star” event that FN is (HAM Radio uses a full-blown, purpose-built Expo Centre, whereas Hamvention uses a country showground). Even before the event, it was clear that the media support facilities are very limited, which goes back to the fact that despite the fact that Greene county calls the facility an Expo site – it isn’t. It is a country fairground site (but a good one for that). I’ve no doubt been spoilt at FN but media facilities is an area that DARA might wish to look at in future years.
More importantly, though I was expected to be blown away by the size of the event and the number of people there. The flea market IS bigger than at FN and nicer to walk around as it is like a giant car boot sale outside.
Although there are possibly 6 or 7 thousand more entrants over the 3 days than in Germany, it didn’t seem as crowded and the event didn’t seem as “big” as I expected. I think this was because the dealers are spread across 5 smaller halls whereas it is just two large halls in FN (3 if you count the Maker Faire) plus the flea market stalls in another large hall. I found overall that the arrangement in Xenia is more comfortable. Of course, we didn’t have any rain to speak of, which would have made going between halls or getting food and drink outside, more uncomfortable had it rained.
It’s always nice to see new and old equipment although I was very aware that with my cabin baggage only I wasn’t going to be able to purchase any of it. The real enjoyment came from meeting people who I have emailed with or heard on their own podcasts, in person and the listeners from ICQPodcast coming up and saying hello. It’s really humbling that they appreciate the fact that (in my case) every 4 weeks I take part in a news round table and spout off my opinion about AR news items.
There is no doubt the mass of 7 or 8 members of the team, all dressed in the bright orange ICQPodcast polo shirts – got us noticed outnumbering the people on even the largest podcasts present. The work done over the years by Colin and Martin also means that we get acknowledgement and respect from the manufacturers and dealers as well.
Overall I enjoyed myself at Dayton, despite the bad start (transport-wise). We only stayed for the first two days as that drive back to Chicago puts a strain on the time, even with a break at a hotel en-route next door to the space museum and a SOTA activation (see the report here). The journey back was also tiring thanks to the bad roads.
Would I go again?
Certainly not next year and certainly not if it meant driving from Chicago again. But in a few years, taking a different route – maybe. The time saved by the pre-clearance in Dublin does not make up for the extra time added to the flight from Munich, so it would have to be a direct flight Munich to some location in the US. Indianapolis? Cinncinatti?