John Sanders says he can’t remember a time when amateur radio wasn’t part of his life.
“My dad was a TV repairman and just loved electronics,” said the Cleveland, Tenn., resident. “When I was a child back in the 1970s, he’d come home from work and after dinner get on his radio. I’d watch him when I was little, then as I got older, he started teaching me and letting me take part in it.”
Sanders was one of some 1,200 amateur radio enthusiasts from around the Southeast who gathered at the North Georgia Fairgrounds in Dalton on Saturday for the annual Dalton Hamfest, sponsored by the Dalton Amateur Radio Club.
Rial Sloan, president of the club, says Hamfest is an annual event dating back well over 20 years.
“We’ve got people from Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, all across the Southeast,” he said.
“Ham” radio operators and vendors were buying, selling, trading and displaying amateur radio equipment and other electronics. Many of the dealers brought some of the newest radio equipment available for enthusiasts to look at and buy.
Inside the fairgrounds’ agricultural building, Will Jourdain was showing ham radio enthusiasts some of the latest models from Icom, one of the three largest manufacturers in the United States.
“We’ve got a large sampling of our VHF, or high frequency, product line,” he said. “These allow you to talk around the country or even around the world. Of course, we have our smaller handheld units as well.”
Jourdain, a Dalton native now living in Atlanta, grew with ham radio. His father is also a ham enthusiast. But he says that ham radio operators get involved in many different ways.
“A lot of folks I talk to are electrical engineers. They have an interest in electronics, and they get into ham radio from there. A lot of people come out of the military. They learned to operate radios in the service and want to continue that when they get out. Others have an interest in emergency preparedness and get involved from that,” he said.
Sloan notes that when other forms of communication fail, amateur radio still works.
“When 9/11 happened and the cell towers in New York City went down, amateur radio operators were still able to communicate,” he said. “You might remember that a few years ago we had a young man go missing down on the Conasauga River. We got a call from the emergency management agency saying they were going to do a search but their radios wouldn’t work down there. Ten of our members went out there with their radios and helped them with that search.”
The Dalton Amateur Radio Club will be hosting a class for those interested in getting involved in amateur radio on March 12 at 8 a.m. at the Whitfield Emergency Management Agency (EMA), 804 Professional Blvd., Dalton. Those interested in taking part in the class should contact the EMA at (706) 259-3730.