[vcf-midatlantic] Sussex hamfest and swapmeets

Matt Reynolds mattreynolds04 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 16 13:52:24 EDT 2020

This is mostly anecdotal, from a fringe, barely-active member, so take it
for whatever it is:

I got to Hamfests on a regular enough basis, even though I'm not a ham.
I've been to some of the bigger ones like Sussex and Dayton and many, many
small ones.

I think it's very reasonable to say that it's a dying hobby, but is not
dead.  There's just more to do from a hobby standpoint than ever before,
and only so much time in the day, and only so much time on the planet to
live your life.

There may be more members now, but there are more people on the planet now
as well, and part of the boom rush in getting more members was dropping the
Morse Code requirements.  I'm in a different vintage electronics club and
many of them have said that they never bothered to learn, or waited until
the code requirement dropped before they took the test.

Of course it's evolved, more digital and exotic than it was in the past.
Less heavy boatanchors, more things that look more like computer parts than
radio parts.  More computer related than ever before.   I've been to many
estate sales of "silent keys" as well.  The only people I see buying the
heavy ham gear are other hams, which are most of the time within the same
age range as the silent key who just passed.  Very seldom do I see young
guys at those types of sale picking up their first set of gear to get on
the air with.

The hamfest attendance still seems to me to be in the vast majority men,
50s and above to almost every fest i've been to.  Are there younger men,
women, kids? Absolutely (I'm not even in my 40s yet).  Are they
deliberately exclusive? no.  There's just not a lot of enticement for
anyone else to go to them unless they are already interested in the topic.
I go primarily because the trend seems to be for most hams to buy some very
expensive new rig that is small, not heavy, and does more, and the vintage
stuff, including their test equipment, and quite often computer\consumer
electronics, goes to the sale with them alongside their old boatanchor

The mentality of "this hamfest is not as big as it used to be" mentality
seems to be something I've heard at almost every one I've ever attended,
including Dayton, and is something that is brought up without ever
mentioning it or asking about it.  The toxicity of that mentality and
similar companion attitudes in the hobby have been part of the reason I
haven't prioritized taking the cert exams.  I've never been "talked down
to" by elders in any other enthusiast group as often as at hamfests.
Asking questions seems to give you a gruff brush-off more often than it
should, and more often than I encounter at other swap meets (car parts
shows, coin-op shows, antique shows, collectible shows, etc.).  It's a
really strange phenomenon, because some of my best friends are hams and are
on the opposite side of that mentality spectrum.  The old fixture of the
hobby, an "Elmer" or graybeard-like person there to help teach the others
seems to be harder and harder to find at hamfests, because there are so
many of the naysayers there polluting it for the Elmers.  It doesn't take
much to turn people off to a hobby when someone is only mildly curious to
begin with.  Many times I've thought to myself, why would I bother to get
certified to get on the air to talk to grumpy old people talk about how
things aren't as good as they used to be and brag about how expensive their
radio is?  I realize that it is not the only thing that happens, but I've
encountered more of the grumps than the Elmers.

Back to the original point,

I can also see why having a swap meet takes away from an event where you
are having exhibits and panels.  I've been to other shows that have both at
the same time, and I often feel torn between digging through the treasure
and watching the panels or events.  Maybe you are pondering whether to buy
something or not, and while you are thinking about it you go to a panel,
and you spend half the panel whether or not you should go buy that thing,
or whether it's still there, etc.

On the flipside, you have stuff you don't want anymore, you want to get rid
of it.  It's esoteric and the audience that knows what it is doesn't walk
into the flea market everyday, online sales are not always attractive,
etc.  Seems like the best idea would be to have a separate event that was
just a swap meet?  Based on the replies already sent back and forth on this
topic, there seems to be plenty of demand for one.



On Wed, Sep 16, 2020 at 1:07 PM Sentrytv via vcf-midatlantic <
vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:

> I’d like to say that you guys (Girls) put on a very good Hamfest, it is
> unfortunate that this year it had to be canceled.
> I have been going there probably for the better part of 20 years, selling
> and buying.
> All of my friends who are into radio equipment have found some really good
> deals there.
> I must say that you guys have the most diverse Hamfest/swap meet in NJ.
> Mike Rosen
> Looking forward to going next year.
> Sent from:
> My extremely complicated, hand held electronic device.
> > On Sep 16, 2020, at 10:14 AM, Kelly Leavitt via vcf-midatlantic <
> vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org> wrote:
> >
> > Not to flog a deceased equine but...
> > Sussex County NJ is home to a great hamfest too.
> >
> > We have over a thousand buyers through the gates and over 200 sellers.
> Ann and I usually run the kitchen. We see all kinds of folks.
> >
> > 73 de KE2L
> >
> > ________________________________
> > From: vcf-midatlantic <vcf-midatlantic-bounces at lists.vcfed.org> on
> behalf of Dave McGuire via vcf-midatlantic <
> vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org>
> > Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2020 10:33 PM
> > To: W2HX via vcf-midatlantic <vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org>
> > Cc: Dave McGuire <mcguire at neurotica.com>
> > Subject: Re: [vcf-midatlantic] VCF East Swap Meet - Save the Date -
> Saturday November 7 (Rain: Sunday November 8)
> >
> >
> >   Butler, PA is in the middle of nowhere and generally consists of an
> > odd mix of farmers and meth addicts, but there's one hell of a hamfest
> > there every year.  I too thought hamfests had pretty much died, but then
> > I was very happily corrected!  I never miss that one.
> >
> >   Of course, every year at the Butler hamfest I run across constipated
> > old men standing around complaining about how ham radio (not hamfests,
> > but ham radio) is dying.  Sometimes I'm in a snarky enough mood to
> > interrupt and inform them that it's bigger than it ever has been, but I
> > usually just shake my head and leave them to their bran muffins.
> >
> >                -Dave
> >
> >> On 9/15/20 9:41 AM, W2HX via vcf-midatlantic wrote:
> >> I'll pile on 'cause I'm a ham (don't mess with us! Haha).
> >>
> >> I frequently attend NEARfest which is a spring and fall hamfest event
> in the New England area. I don’t know the exact attendance numbers but if I
> had to guess I would say "a few thousand" when the weather is good. There
> are more hams licensed with the FCC today than ever before in history. Over
> 760,000 in the US alone (according to Wikipedia).
> >>
> >> And growing!
> http://www.arrl.org/files/media/News/Ham%20Radio%20Stats%202014.jpg
> >>
> >> Worldwide the number is about 3,000,000 (again according to Wikipedia).
> I wonder how many vintage computer hobbyists exist the world? Maybe we
> should learn something from the hams.
> >>
> >> 73 Eugene W2HX
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> From: vcf-midatlantic <vcf-midatlantic-bounces at lists.vcfed.org> On
> Behalf Of Joshua Abraham via vcf-midatlantic
> >> Sent: Monday, September 14, 2020 7:47 PM
> >> To: vcf-midatlantic at lists.vcfed.org
> >> Cc: Joshua Abraham <jarvideo at gmail.com>
> >> Subject: [vcf-midatlantic] VCF East Swap Meet - Save the Date -
> Saturday November 7 (Rain: Sunday November 8)
> >>
> >>>> I was right about that, and I was right about hamfests. How many
> >> families and kids excitedly go to a hamfest? Swapmeets are incestuous,
> and that makes communities wither and go extinct.
> >>
> >> I couldn't help but weigh in on this. Before making snide remarks such
> as these it may help to make sure you have actual data to back that up.
> >> Hamfests can be rather small and boring but others are MASSIVE
> coordinated events with large attendance. Most notably, the annual Dayton
> Hamvention which had an attendance of over 32,000. This event is to hams
> what VCF is to us vintage computer enthusiasts. The event is hugely
> successful and they have a full on flea market to go along with it.
> >>
> >> Closer to my neck of the woods is the annual Shelby Hamfest, an event
> that's well more than a few decades old and boasts several thousand in
> attendance and even offers campground space for the folks they know are
> traveling far and bringing families along.
> >>
> >> Based on these events alone I'd say ham is alive and well and far from
> extinct.
> >>
> >> Personally I think the swapmeet is a fantastic idea and has much
> potential.
> >> -Joshua A
> >>
> >
> >
> > --
> > Dave McGuire, AK4HZ
> > New Kensington, PA

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