It is a little after 9pm, and having taken a nice long nap after returning from the BVARC (Brazos Valley Amateur Radio Club) Hamfest, I thought I'd write a quick review! This was the first time I've attended their hamfest, however I usually lurk on .825 where many of them talk each day, and so I knew that this was their biggest one to date - held at the Fort Bend County Fairgrounds.
Apparently the 'fest has been growing so much each year that they had to find a larger site this year. I decided to go for a couple of reasons: 1).If I didn't make it to Belton (again), at least I could say I went to one this year, and 2). From Sealy, it was a straight shot down hwy 36, and only took about 30min to get there. Well then...enough background, let's get on with the review.
As I pulled into the parking lot I saw plenty of car with metal antlers ontop - not quite Belton, but bigger than many other local events (600-700 people attended). There were only a few tailgaters, which seemed a bit strange considering we just had a front blow through and the skies were blue with a very nice temperature and humidity. I paid my $5 and went inside...
There were alot of people inside the building, probably more buyer/lookers than sellers (who were seated at tables), yet, more sellars than you would usually see together in one place, in Houston. Note: Hopefully I'll be able to have some video for you to see later. It seemed well organized (I'll write about this in a minute), but after a quick scan of the room, I could see a lack of many of the retail vendors you'd normally see at Belton, so I set my drool gauge one notch lower. The Grand Prize for the drawing was an Icom IC-718 (beats some places that only have a free hat for giveaways), and everyone seemed pretty happy as they walked around. It felt like a big social event.
Back to organized. A lot of local hamfests only offer a couple things; a chance to buy or sell something, and an opportunity to meet the guy on the other end of microphone. Belton, which is a very large hamfest, relies on the swap meet to bring in folks (which it does very nicely), with occasional license testing. It was very clear to me that BVARC had a several different attractions, designed to draw in folks for different (or many) reasons:
- They had a swapmeet, in a nice large building.
- They offered license exams not once, but TWICE during the event.
- And they offered 30minutes of information in the form of seminars. Not just one, or two subjects but more than I can remember!
The seminars they offered were:
- Lightning and Grounding
- African DX Safari
- Satellites on a Budget
- Satellite Demonstration
- Antenna Basics and - Stealth
- End fed wire Antennas
- Spider Quads
- "Vampire" Electronics
- Deed Restrictions
- Emergency Management
- HF Contesting
- Working DXCC
- Printed Circuit Boards
- DXpedition - Malta
- Last, but certainly not least: An ARRL featured speaker/West Gulf Division Vice Director who had 30 minutes of talking and 30 minutes of Q & A
There were several that I wanted to attend, and would have liked to taped, but I was on a preset time sked (but the main reason was I left my tripod and wireless microphone at home).
As I walked through each aisle, I could see that as far as transceivers went, most folks brought HF gear to sell. Some were higher than or equal to EBAY, while others were more realistically priced. In other words, an even balance of pricing. I saw several FT-1000's going for a little over $1,000! What I didn't see were buyers with their arms full, or pulling wagons filled with great finds (like a Belton-sized 'fest would have).
Naturally, I ran into several old cronies of mine and I think I talked so much my lips were so dry that they were starting to crack. My Plan was to leave around 10a.m., but I didn't get out of there until 11:30 and really had to "put the peddle to the metal" to try and make it back to the Sealy P.O. before they closed (I didn't).
I liked this event, and regret not sitting in on some of the seminars. There were topics to appeal to just about everyone, some retail vendors, lot's of tables with stuff to buy, a nice door prize, and it was well organized. And like I said, clearly planned for future growth in coming years. I think that a lot of retailers blew this off, thinking it wasn't a big deal and they'll regret that decision because there were quite a few new "Generals" coming from the exams looking for HF gear and accessories. Perhaps one reason there weren't more folks buying items, was that they didn't think there would be much to see and came to socialize. The BVARC Hamfest has a strong foothold in the future for the Houston amateur community which has always suffered for lack of a BIG yearly event (the last "BIG" event in Houston, was one held in Humble many years ago). I'll be back next year, and I think so will many others. With word-of-mouth, there is no place but UP for this event to go....Oh, ONE last comment. Most hamfests tend to die off between 10 and 11 a.m. but the BVARC 'fest still had many people there at 11:30, with more arriving, as I left. You don't see that too often.
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.