After 30 years of amateur radio, I finally got to attend the Dayton Hamvention this year.  It was quite an experience and I’m glad I made the long trip.


YL Sporting a Tower Hairdo

First off, I have to say that KE9V’s Dayton Survival Guide is spot on.  I experienced most of what he wrote from hams expecting ADA parking spots without a reservation to repeater jerks to body odor in the crowded main arena.  Anyone attending Dayton for the first time should memorize this article prior to going.   The flea market was both impressive and a disappointment.  It’s big, really big, but the quality of wares for sale was in two extreme categories: junk and expensive good stuff.  Junk is junk and it’s what I was accustomed to seeing when going to local hamfests years ago.  The expensive stuff was mainly very nice vintage gear and amplifiers, lots of amplifiers.  There wasn’t much in between these two categories in my opinion.  I was surprised there were very few HF rigs from the past five years for sale.


Assorted Crap


Smell My Junk


Merchandise or Canopy Anchor?

One Dayton ritual I avoided totally was using the outhouses.  The bathrooms within Hara Arena were malodorous enough and the lines and foot traffic within them resembled a rare DX phone pileup.


 Next Stop: 80 Meters

Inside the arena, of the major HF equipment companies, Kenwood had the most impressive booth, which was spacious and carpeted, though lacking anything new that I could see.  Everyone crowded around the rig they can’t afford, the TS-990.  Icom and Yaesu had nice booths as well, but not nearly as spacious.  I eagerly went into the Yaesu booth searching for the rig that will replace the venerable but long in the tooth FT-817.  But disappointingly they had the 817 on display along side the FT-857 and FT-897.  The Elecraft booth was abuzz and continually crowded with a table of order takers on the side.  Elecraft could load up vending machines dispensing K3s or just deploy drones to deliver them to peoples’ vehicles outside.


Walking in to the Main Arena

I was somewhat afraid to attend the Hamvention due to all the stories I heard about Hara Arena.  Initially the condition of the place was a bit depressing, however after awhile you come to accept it as part of the Dayton experience.  Every ceiling tile has water stains.  The ballroom area is a wormhole back into the 70s.  The bathrooms smell.  The parking lot pavement is crumbling to dust.  It’s Hara Arena.  Get used it.



Let’s talk about the rental scooters.  {Warning: Politically incorrect material}  They were everywhere, and they were a big annoyance.  Now, if you are really handicapped and need a scooter to get around, I’m fine with that.  But I think many of the scooter users aren’t really handicapped.  Arguably many of them are just overweight due to their own bad health choices and could benefit from the exercise and less trips to the concession area.  Scooter jams were a frequent occurrence and everywhere you went you were either stuck behind one, had one at your heals, or had to yield to them so they could maneuver.  Several scooter operators were like drunk drivers, especially out in the flea market area.  If I never saw a scooter again, I would be a happy man.

The food was better than what I was expecting.  Both days I ate pizza and actually enjoyed it, which is surprising as I’m a northeastern pizza snob.  Out in the flea market there were vendors grilling beef, hot dogs, and chicken and across from the Hamvention there was a cool little barbeque stand run by a rather friendly dude.  (Next time I’m getting a smoked salmon dinner from this stand.)



Yum Yum: Rib-N-It Bar-B-Q

The indoor exhibits were well worth the trip.  The major equipment manufacturers and organizations were all there, with one notable exception being AES.  I was told AES wasn’t there last year either.  It’s really disappointing that such a major vendor doesn’t support this event, the largest hamfest in North America.  This may make me reconsider using AES in the future and perhaps switch to HRO or DX Engineering.

I found the real crown jewel of Dayton to be the forums.  I attended two forums, but I wanted to attend several more and plan to on the next pilgrimage to Dayton.


Standing Room Only in the AMSAT Forum


(To be continued….)


6 thoughts on “Dayton!

  1. I attended Dayton for about 25 years straight, but not for the past 3 years. The hassle just became too much.

    For about 10 years I attended with a friend who is a plumber. He said the bathroom stench was because there was no water in the floor drains, letting the sewer “gas” up into the bathrooms. Every year he would email the Hamvention and ask them to have water put into the floor drains. They never did. Apparently the only time Hara Arena is used is for the hamfest.

    The other big gripe was gas prices. You better fill up with gas on Wednesday or Thursday, as gas prices increased by 15-25 cents per gallon for the weekend, another Dayton ripoff of the hams attending the hamfest.

    But you are right, it is Dayton, get used to it!

  2. Like you, I attended for the first time after 20+ years as a ham. I doubt I ever would have attended were it not for my son (KD0WBB) being invited to speak at Saturday morning’s youth forum. I agree with everything in your post, from the ubiquitous electric scooter road rage to the dilapidated state of the entire venue. I guess by lunchtime on Friday I just sort of made my peace with it and enjoyed the event for what it was. I’m not sure I’m in a hurry to go back, but I’m sure glad I had a reason to make the pilgrimage at least once.

  3. I have been attending the Dayton event for the last 15 years ago (my brother and his family live 30 minutes away, so we have housing and a chance to get together for a few days). For the last 8 years or so we have set up in the flea market, as we sell stuff to make room for newer stuff. Hara Arena is “unique” (actually, just run down), but I really find that the outside portable outhouses are much better than inside the arena. They are maintained and emptied several time a day, much more often than the inside arrangements.

    I made a point of getting to the Flex radio area inside, nothing like seeing a 40 inch or so panadapter. Impressive stuff. But, I really lust for the 6700, so no orders at this time (About $7K, more than I made in the flea market).

  4. Interesting Blog. It was my first visit too. I didn’t take as many pictures as i would have liked (I ended up taking lots of pictures for others though). Have to return in 2015 as I did not get around all I wanted to see. Still, I returned home with three suitcases and next year I am taking my wife so that means six suitcases of stuff :).

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