The Brandon Amateur Radio Club is gearing up for a new province-wide convention, to be held at the Manitoba Agricultural Museum in Austin on August 13.
Although the club has held small group gatherings in the past, chairman Jim Sloane told The Sun that this new offering, known as the “Manitoba Ham Fest,” is their most ambitious event in recent memory, as they aim to attract approximately 150 attendees, including operators from Saskatchewan and even parts of the United States.
“We get our feet wet,” the 73-year-old said on Sunday. “We hope to have a successful event and would love for the general public to come and take a look. They are welcome.
One of the main sources of inspiration for this upcoming convention is the annual International Peace Garden Amateur Radio Festival, which members of the Brandon Amateur Radio Club regularly attended until the event was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
And because of all the new uncertainty surrounding the logistics of crossing the border, Sloane and his fellow club members decided to organize something a little closer to home, officially setting the wheels in motion a while ago. about a year.
While Manitoba Ham Fest’s main attraction will be its flea market, where operators can stock up on hard-to-find gear, Sloane said they’re also trying to hold informational seminars for those interested in learn more about different aspects of the hobby, such as digital radio.
“Digital Mobile Radio, DMR for short, is one topic that can come up, and the other is AllStarLink, which is a combined internet and amateur radio streaming service where you can talk to anyone which all over the world using various nodes that are set up,” he said.
Since its inception in 1948, the primary purpose of the Brandon Amateur Radio Club has always been to foster an active community for those who use the radio frequency spectrum for the non-commercial exchange of messages.
As well as being a fun pastime, Sloane said ham radio enthusiasts are also responsible for setting up vital transmitting stations throughout the province, which have come in handy whenever a natural disaster strikes. broke away from more traditional forms of communication.
“What comes to mind initially is the 1979 flood,” he said. “They had stations set up all over the Red River Valley on emergency power, communicating messages and coordinating traffic for some of the emergency measures organizations.”
Even though the need for such emergency networks has diminished in recent years, with the advent of cell phones and the internet, Sloane thinks it’s important to keep these alternative measures in place.
For this reason, the Brandon Amateur Radio Club installed equipment above City Hall so that operators could provide valuable communications to local government officials in the event of a catastrophic outage of cellular service.
“If the cell phones go out, we are really the last resource because we can run on battery power and still communicate,” he said.
Sloane also mentioned that some other members of the club are proficient in Morse code, which provides an additional worst-case form of communication.
“When there’s a ton of noise on the tape, or the tape conditions are really low, the morse code can still get through,” he said. “So it’s a very valuable form of communication, especially in an emergency.”
Despite his love for amateur radio, Sloane admits the Brandon Amateur Radio Club needs to grow and attract new members, especially since the communications landscape has changed dramatically over the past two decades.
For this reason, he hopes Manitoba Ham Fest will become an annual event that will continue to grow and inject new blood into the hobby for years to come.
“This one hopefully will get bigger because what we want it to become is not just a flea market,” he said. “We want it to be able to accommodate activities for non-hams and hams.”
Admission to the next Manitoba Ham Fest is $5.
Anyone interested in learning more about this event can contact Sloane at [email protected] or 204-761-5803.