Hamfest 2018

The scene at last year's Hamfest, with Dave Finely and Jon Spargo.

Amateur radio operators and emergency-communications volunteers from throughout New Mexico and surrounding states will meet Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18-19, for Hamfest 2019. The annual Socorro Hamfest will be held at the New Mexico Firefighters Training Academy from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. The event is free, and the public is invited.

Hamfest, which customarily draws hundreds of visitors from New Mexico and the Southwest, will include a statewide meeting of volunteer members of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES). These volunteers train regularly and work with local governments and other organizations to provide vital communication links to help protect lives and property in disaster situations. This year, ARES is celebrating its 84th Anniversary.

Other features of Hamfest include lectures, demonstrations, door prizes, displays, a radio-electronics swap meet, and commercial electronics vendors. There also will be working amateur radio stations, literature on amateur radio, and a wide variety of electronic equipment for viewing and sale.

Hamfest events kick off on Friday, Oct. 18, with a tour of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory's Very Large Array at 1 p.m. and an evening, pre-Hamfest banquet at the Masonic Lodge for local and visiting hams. Guest speaker for the dinner is Harold Edens, Director of Langmuir Lightning Laboratory on South Baldy Mountain.

This program of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) – the national association for Amateur Radio – has provided "ham radio" emergency communications for agencies such as the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, countless Emergency Operations Centers, and other responders in the worst of times. In events from ice storms to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, when conventional communications systems were down or overloaded, the Amateur Radio operators of the ARES programs filled requests for communications aid.

According to the Socorro Amateur Radio Association website, amateur radio “has been part of the landscape in Socorro since the 1930s. By the mid-1970s, informal meetings of members and their families were occurring, and SARA made the transition to a formal association in May 1976. Although participation in the association has ebbed and flowed SARA has remained a vital element of both the amateur radio and Socorro communities since its formation.

“Today members of SARA chase DX, challenge conditions with QRP rigs, experiment with various digital modes, serve the community with their communications skills, provide leadership for county emergency planning and services as well as a host of other activities. Socorro County ARES is one of the most active groups of its kind in the state.

“Although a smaller southwest community, Socorro is very high tech. The ARRL featured Socorro and SARA in the QST article by Dave Finley, “Socorro, New Mexico — Ham City, USA?” that highlighted the area’s high per capita interest in amateur radio.

For those interested in becoming a ham radio operator, examinations for FCC amateur radio licenses will also be given at Hamfest under the supervision of Radio Shack's Al Braun. The examinations begin at noon, with registration for the exams starting at 11 a.m. While Hamfest is free, there is a fee for the examinations. Also, examinees must bring photo identification and the original plus a copy of any amateur radio license or examination certificate they may have.

“The test covers a combination of basic electronics and the FCC regulations,” Braun said. “And fundamentals of setting up a station.”

Other activities Saturday include a hidden transmitter hunt.

The Socorro Hamfest is sponsored by the Socorro Amateur Radio Association, the New Mexico Tech Amateur Radio Association, and the City of Socorro. ARRL sanctions it.