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Radio operators ‘Hamfest’ set for this weekend

By Staff | Jan 15, 2015

Amateur radio enthusiasts throughout Southwest Florida will gather today and Saturday at the Gulf Coast Church of Christ in Fort Myers for the first major ham radio event of the year.

Hamfest, sponsored by the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club, a non-profit charitable organization, will feature ham radio operators contacting other operators from throughout the country, as well as guest speakers, a silent auction and more.

The event will be open to visitors today from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Vendors will be setting up on both days at 6 a.m., and on Saturday there will be hourly drawings for items donated for the cause.

Craig Christianson will be the main speaker, discussing with new operators how to set up your first ham shack.

Tom Muye, president of the Fort Myers Amateur Radio Club, said the event has lasted at least 11 years, with roots that go back as much as 50 years.

“It’s a fundraiser for us, with one of our goals being to purchase or have donated to us a trailer that we can make into an emergency communications vehicle,” Muye said. “To purchase a trailer would cost around $2,000, and to outfit it would cost another $2,000.”

The club’s motto is “When All Else Fails,” as during many emergencies such as Hurricane Charley and 9/11 it became the only way to communicate when all other forms had been rendered useless.

“When the cell phone batteries quit two days after Charley, The only communication left was us,” Muye said.”There were a lot of us communicating between the various shelters and emergency operations building. It’s a viable thing we train for all the time.”

The club holds several events throughout the year, including Field Day in June at the North Fort Myers Community Park and the International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend in Boca Grande.

A special event at Buckingham Air Field will also be held in late March to commemorate the training base for gunneries.

Muye said the ultimate goal is to get more people interested in ham radio.

“We want to let people know we’re here. We want to also get those who are interested to take free training and testing in the club,” Muye said, adding that there will be free testing at 10 a.m. Saturday during Hamfest.

The church is at 9550 Ben C. Pratt/Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers. General admission for an adult is $7 and $5 for students. Children under 12 are free.