Having a field day with amateur radio
Over the weekend of June 27-28, if one should happen to stumble upon a group of people in a park, or other public space, gathered around an array of radio gear connected to wires hanging from trees or strange-looking antennae, don’t be alarmed. This probably won’t be a group of folks trying to help E.T. phone home; it will most likely be a collection of amateur radio operators participating in the annual American Radio Relay League Field Day contest.
Founded on April 6, 1914, in Hartford Connecticut, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has evolved to be the most prominent advocacy organization for the Amateur Radio Service in the United States. The ARRL organizes a wide range of educational and radio hobby related activities throughout the year, among them being a variety of over-the-air contests.
Having become arguably the most prominent and anticipated of the ARRL-sponsored contests each and every year, Field Day had its beginning in 1933. As the name implies, the concept of Field Day is to have amateur radio operators (aka Hams) move away from their home station locations and set up and operate radio gear in more unusual and open places. Parks and shopping centers, with prior landowner permission, tend to be typical Field Day sites. These sites give the general public a chance to view participants' activities, as encouraged by the ARRL.
While technically a contest to make as many over-the-air contacts as possible in a given length of time, the main goal of Field Day is actually to provide a structured event for amateur radio operators to gain and maintain experience in quickly setting up and establishing facilities for radio communication in strange and remote conditions, simulating times of widespread emergency or natural disaster.
Many Hams participate in the Field Day contest as part of a large group through highly organized efforts orchestrated by local amateur radio clubs. Others might get an informal band of radio buddies together and “play radio” for a weekend. Some Hams highly emphasize the contesting aspect of Field Day and really work at racking up a high number contacts. Others focus greatly on the emergency preparedness aspect of the event and take that very seriously. Yet others see Field Day mainly as an annual chance to have some fun operating radios in unusual places and reconnect with old friends.
This year Hams are allowed to commence Field Day radio operations at 1800 hours Coordinated Universal Time (2 p.m. EDT) on Saturday, June 27, and must cease by 2059 hours Coordinated Universal Time (4:59 p.m. EDT) on Sunday, June 28. A very large, well attended radio club-supported Field Day effort may have a designated public information representative available to explain all the goings-on to interested folks passing by.
I'm a longtime resident of the Bay Village and Westlake area (Bay 1965 to 1977, then Westlake since) who has always enjoyed living here while seeing lots of change over the years.