There’s been a festering, ongoing social media battle over Hamvention, its new venue, the fairground in Xenia, and the old Hara arena. It seems this has bubbled up to the surface again with the recent tornado disaster in Trotwood which severely damaged homes and the venerable, but severely dilapidated Hara Arena.
I won’t dispute that Hara was a dump. It was a major dump. It was abused over the years and its long tenuous financial history is available for anyone who wants to find it on the interwebs. Despite being a dump, Hara was an ideal venue for the Hamvention. Hamvention started there, grew with Hara even through its physical decline, and the legendary event arguably was molded and enabled by the capabilities the site offered. Hara may be rebuilt and Hamvention may or may not return to Hara, but I’m not going to bet on it or even entertain the thought.
What bothers me is that some dismiss any commentary or criticism of the Xenia location as merely Hara Arena fanatics sore over the loss of Hara, or simply as complainers. That’s not the case. I’ll acknowledge that Xenia was likely the best choice out of a few choices at the time, but it’s just not well suited long term for the Hamvention. There’s a lack of major highways and hotels nearby. The mud pit parking has become legendary. The buildings are more suited to host livestock than technology. The flea market is in the grassy track center, because, well, there’s no where else to put it. And last, the venue doesn’t feel like the largest amateur radio gathering in the western hemisphere. It feels like a county fair with amateur radio.
It’s not realistic to think Hamvention will return to Hara anytime soon. I think what many of us would like to see is a realization that Xenia isn’t an ideal location, and it has changed the character of the event. Xenia was a prudent, stopgap measure taken under difficult circumstances. Now that the immediate threat to the future of the event has passed, the Hamvention powers that be should seek a better venue for Hamvention and not settle for Xenia.
This article originally appeared on Radio Artisan.
7 thoughts on “It’s Not About Hara”
I couldn’t have said it better or agree more!
This was my first year at Hamvention. I enjoyed myself immensely. But, having been involved with many conference and show venues in my professional life. I understand your sentiments. If anyone attends the Huntsville (AL) Hamfest at the Von Braun Center, with the Embassy Suites Hotel connected via a bridgeway, they will understand your views. There may be many others like this too.
I went to Hamvention in 1985 and 1986 at the Hara Arena. 30 years later, I was quite amazed to find that the Arena had finally been closed down. Seeing that the place was an arena since the mid-sixties, I was amazed to hear that it had been around for so long. Most arenas and sports domes only last for about 30 at best, are torn down and rebuilt, (usually elsewhere due to urban sprawl), and become too expensive at first to rent for a decade or so. Yes, the Hamvention is held in a different place now and no it’s not ideal, but it’s still Hamvention.
“…the Hamvention powers that be should seek a better venue for Hamvention and not settle for Xenia.”
I completely agree, but the available choices will be limited due to:
a) the hundreds of local volunteers required to run the event tend to live near it, so moving it to the larger nearby city of Cincinnati (for example) is probably off the table due to the volunteer issue,
b) even though it might make economic sense to consider changing the date to a week or two later (which would free up many college locations around Dayton to host the event once school is out for the summer), Hamvention staff has been nearly always fought that suggestion tooth and nail. It might be easier in the Dayton area to move Christmas vs. Hamvention weekend, and
c) The Hamvention staff hasn’t shown a great deal of foresight in the past (regarding locating the premiere event involving ham radio), so there is little to suggest they will move it’s new location until those buildings are falling down around them as well and they are forced to, just like at Hara.
Meanwhile, other events in AL, FL, and TX continue to grow in size and stature, which strongly suggests that both vendors and attendees want better facilities than what the Dayton club is able to provide with either the Hara or the newer Xenia locations.
It should be pretty easy to move it a couple of weeks later and over to the Nutter Center at Wright State which isn’t that far from Xenia.
Dallas Ft Worth should be a good place for the hamvention, its about midway of north, east, west of USA. Lets do it.