"Ides of March" Hamfest 2019

March 23 , 2019


Tennessee National Guard Armory, Union City, TN

The 12th Annual "Ides of March" Hamfest sponsored by the Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club in Union City, Tennessee was once again held at the Tennessee National Guard Armory in Union City, Tennessee. The weather for the event was, for the most part, quite good with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 50's. This encouraged more folks to make the drive to come visit us. Attendance again improved over that of the previous two years..

The atmosphere for the event was awesome ! We added a new vendor with Walker Communications and this most certainly attracted attendees. In addition, the flea market in the middle of the floor was full with vendors selling their wares.

The Event:

On Friday afternoon prior to the event, members of the Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club gathered at the Tennessee National Guard Armory to set things up. Things went quite smoothly thanks in part to good leadership with Glenn N4MJ and the Hamfest committee. We addressed the things most often commented on, such as the sound system quality and the lack of sitting space at the concession area. After doing some investigating as to what would be best and cost-friendly to improve the sound system, RARC club member Nathan KM4ZYM came up with an idea. He had access to a sound system similar to what we already had. If we connected the two systems together and point four large speakers into the middle of the floor, it should make a nice improvement. This turned out to be quite an understatement ! The tables and chairs were arranged a bit differently to allow more space for sitting at the concession area, but still give plenty of space and table to our vendors and enough for the flea marketeers. Another addition was a nice table cover for the Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club welcome area.

JMR Sales with Ronald WT4RR and Loretta KJ4ULC made the long drive from Altoona, Alabama to be with us once again. They set up a large display on the east wall of the armory. Loretta KJ4ULC is "the badge lady" and she excels in making fine quality name and call sign badges that look fabulous ! JMR Sales also provided a very nice prize - a MFJ 4230 Power Supply. Welcome back, Ron and Loretta !

TNØ7 Engineering from Eagleville, Tennessee with Bob W4AZM and Laura KK4CGY at the helm, once again set up on the north wall with the large windows. Their company specializes in portable and emergency antenna systems. Their display featured their portable vertical antenna inside an extendible fiberglass mast and a beefed up tilt over mount. Very nice ! One antenna is also a backpack antenna and one was donated as a top prize. This year , they showed a bit of the new 20 meter wire beam antenna which is still under development. It will be easily backpacked and deployable on their very nice fiberglass mast. Very interesting !

John Visage KN4EOV with CT Morgan & Associates, made the long trip from Chattanooga and again set up on the north side with the big windows. They specialize in all sorts of ham radio gear. Welcome back, John !

Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club's own Nathan Spencer KM4ZYM and XYL Demetria (Demi) again set up near concessions and made customized decals for RTIC insulated 30 ounce tumblers. These decals were usually configured for amateur call signs and names and they were applied on the spot and sold. This was a great idea ! Also this year, they added coffee mugs and desk plates for radio call signs ! Awesome ! The mugs quickly sold out !

Master Chef Second Class and RARC Secretary-Treasurer Noel KJ4UNX fired up the grill once again and supplied the hamfest attendees with great thick hamburgers and awesome pork barbecue. Harold KJ4FTM along with Samantha KK4NNM and other members held down the entrance and kept the line moving.

As in previous years, the prize ticket arrangement worked extremely well and the vendors were busy making sales to provide receipts for these prize tickets. The more you spent and bought from our vendors, the more prize tickets you earned. This year, for some reason, the color of the tickets for general prize and Grand Prize was reversed from previous years. Nobody blinked and everything worked out great. Spend $25, get a red Grand Prize ticket, spend $5, get a blue general prize ticket. Everyone received free prize tickets - both blue and red - with the price of admission.

Bob K9IL and Rose W9DHD were our emcees for the event. They held down the front desk and announced the prizes as the winners were chosen. The sound system performed remarkably well with the added speakers and the 32 inch display looked great in displaying the prize winners. Glenn N4MJ manned the computer to enter prize winners as announced so they would display correctly on the PowerPoint slides.

A staple of the Ides of March Hamfest is the great prizes that are given away. Prizes came from vendors such as Elecraft, the American Radio Relay League, MFJ Enterprises, RT Systems, N3FJP Software and several others. The top prizes were $ 100 cash prize as 4th prize, a Kenwood TM-281A 2M FM transceiver as 3rd Grand Prize, another Kenwood TM-281A 2M FM transceiver as 2nd Grand Prize and a cash 1st Grand Prize of $ 300 - up $50 from last year. There was also much literature available from many of the suppliers of amateur radio equipment.

The delicacies served at concessions was amazing ! Noel KJ4UNX did an outstanding job with thick Angus hamburgers and awesome pork barbecue off the grill. Many thanks to the ladies at the concession stand for serving up this great affair. They include Hannah KK4SJF, Harrell WD4LAR's XYL Carrie, Glenn N4MJ's XYL Linda, Michael N4EBA's XYL Christie and Jamie WB4YDL's XYL June. Also present was Harrell's grandson Kade Coursey, and Linda's granddaughter Alayna. Many thanks for all your excellent help !!


We had in attendance Tennessee Section Manager Keith Miller N9DGK and ARRL Delta Division Director David Norris K5UZ and Vice-Director Ed Hudgens WB4RHQ as well as Charles Tally KJ4KVC. An excellent meeting was had with these gentlemen concentrating on ARES and happenings at the ARRL.

The new ARES Task Book is doing very well and gaining much interest across the section. The new online-fillable PDF is now currently available on the TN ARES web site.

Much interest was paid to the new proposal for upgrading Technician Class privileges and there was a lot of discussion. These proposals are now at the FCC and receiving comments.

Thanks so much for attending !

VE Testing Session & DX Card Checking & Ham Radio Arduino Forum:

This year's VE testing session was again manned by the Crockett County VE team which does an excellent and professional job.

Successful Candidates Testing at the VE Session :

  • William Hathcoat : passed General Class
  • Chris Harwell KN4RRL : passed General Class
  • Phillip Watson : passed Technician Class
  • Andy Zimmerman : passed BOTH Technician and General Class !
  • Seth Smith KN4LFM : passed General Class
  • Matthew Powers : passed Technician Class

Andy Zimmerman walked in with no license and left as a new General Class licensee during this Ides of March Hamfest VE testing !!

Congratulations One and All !

Ed Pflueger AB4IQ again came down from Paducah, KY as an official ARRL QSL card field checker for DXCC. Several avid DX'ers had their QSL cards checked for DXCC credit.

This year, the Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club welcomed Glen Popiel KW5GP as a new forum presenter. He gave a scintillating talk on ham radio applications using the Arduino platform. This is a red hot area in ham radio that is attracting many newcomers. He has written two ARRL books on this subject and more is coming. Thanks so much Glen for a great forum !

Grand Prize Winners:

1st Grand Prize Robert Griggs KG4ZDN $ 300 cash prize
2nd Grand Prize David Eldridge KN4ORP Kenwood TM-281A 2M FM Transceiver
3rd Grand Prize Ben Barnett K4BEZ Kenwood TM-281A 2M FM Transceiver
4th Prize Michael Stayton AK4VU $ 100 cash prize

Epilogue :

This year's Ides of March Hamfest featured a new vendor in Walker Communications from Madisonville, KY. New and interesting prizes were given away and the great food was a complete hit ! Also a new forum was presented and was very well received. And the weather cooperated ! We also had some very lucky folks that one more than one prize !

Plans are already being made for next year's Ides of March Hamfest 2020 and a great many exciting improvements and prizes.

Don't miss it !

Soapbox :

Glenn N4MJ :

Coordinating a hamfest is a nerve wracking effort but when it happens, the reward overcomes all the anxiety of planning and coordinating.

The 2019 Ides of March hamfest has come and gone, so now we start anew.

Attendance increased, vendors increased, in excess of 20 great prizes were distributed to lucky winners.

The kitchen crew did a fantastic job of serving great sandwiches with the trimmings - hamburgers, BBQ, with condiments, drinks, chips, cookies. A HUGE thanks to all the ladies who pitched in to help.

The VE session went well, although I don't have official numbers yet. Believe there were 9 who tested, 4 upgrades, 3 new Techs. One of those upgrades I know for sure was Seth Smith, KN4LFM. Congratulations to Seth for upgrading to General. For those who are not familiar with Seth, he is 9 years old or maybe still 8, not sure. RARC is proud to have had the opportunity to Elmer Seth into ham radio.

Glen Popiel gave an excellent forum on Arduino. Glen has books published on Arduino, one on ham radio, the other on HSMM. I believe he may have another just on Arduino. Thanks Glen for coming and doing a forum on Arduino.

The ARRL forum went well, too. Section Manager, N9DGK, Keith Miller and Delta Division Director David Norris, K5UZ led the forum. Thanks guys. As usual you did a super job.

Overall the hamfest went very smoothly and was a success for RARC. Thanks to past president Harold Davidson, WD4LAR, and current president James C. Hall, WB4YDL for all their efforts before, during, and after the hamfest.

And, another HUGE THANK YOU to all the folks who helped set-up and tear down; that's a lot of physical labor and the hamfest just couldn't be without your help.

73 and here's looking to the Ides of March 2020.
President Emeritus Reelfoot Amateur Radio Club

Robert Griggs KG4ZDN :

    It was once again hamfest time!  I always enjoy the Reelfoot hamfest, and I never miss it.  This year, I was in the market for a Yaesu Fusion mobile at the insistence of a ham buddy, and some antenna construction supplies.  My budget was limited because I'm devoting my tax refund to clearing my back yard....but that means more room for wire antennas!  

    I got to the 'fest and noticed a new vendor, Walker Communications, and more new equipment than usual.  New equipment can usually be purchased with a credit or debit card, so nothing wrong with that!  I didn't see any used items that caught my eye...well, except with the vintage radio seller.  I have a longstanding weakness for old school receivers.  I've bought several receivers from him over the years, including a Panasonic a couple years ago that is my bedside radio, and a Zenith TransOceanic last year.  This year was no exception - I got a pretty red Zenith coat pocket radio, and a small Zenith shirt pocket radio - and both work!  
    I found a Yaesu Fusion 3200 mobile at the Walker Communications table.  They had the best price I've seen on it, so it went with me - mission accomplished!  I also bought a balun (for making an off center fed dipole) and an antenna switch (because you can never have too many) from JMR Sales.  Finally, a used MFJ-969 tuner was offered to me at a good price, so I snagged it.  But that tapped most of my money, so the rest of the day was rooting on a friend taking his General.  Unfortunately, life got in the way of him studying enough this time, but he vows to get it at Field Day, or possibly even before! 
    I caught Robin Wood coming in, and I've been friends with him for years through my job with 911 in Fulton County, KY.  As we walked the tables, he pointed out some of the older gear he used in the past and likely still has.  Robin is a walking history of public safety radio for this region - always neat to hear him talk about how far things have come.  I was talking with him, Bobby Richardson, and a couple others when it was time for the grand prize drawing.  I had not won any door prizes despite having a bunch of tickets in the bin for once.  But I guess my luck saved the best for last - once again- and I snagged the grand prize for the 2nd straight year!  That made an already great hamfest even better!

   I thought it all went very well - I had several items from the concession stand, including one of Chef Noel's fine burgers, and it was all excellent!  The tables were well laid out, and everyone I talked to was having a great time, discussing their radio projects, some of the new repeaters and such coming, and just shooting the breeze.  I had a great time, and I'm already looking forward to next year's hamfest!  

73, Robert Griggs

Photography Credits : Jamie WB4YDL, Glenn N4MJ, Michael AK4VU.