MARA Annual Hamfest

Contributed by Don Bush, KL7JFT

5/6/2017 - 10AM
Matanuska Amateur Radio Association
Wasilla Boys & Girls Club
E 5700 Bogard Rd. Wasilla
Admission: $3

In the spring, ham radio operators start to get real active in community support activities. It's also time to check the antennas and mobile rigs to see what winter may have been a little hard on and get it fixed. Another important activity is the Hamfest. Just what is this? Well it's like a large garage sale, with a lot more things included.  

Some Hamfests, like the Dayton Hamfest fills up a large stadium. Now the one that the Matanuska Amateur Radio Association has will be a bit smaller than that, but what an opportunity to check out various types of radio equipment, computers, other electronic equipment and hear about the latest in ham radio as a hobby and emergency communications.  Bring your gear in if you would like to sell, swap or upgrade. Learn how to program your radios.

We get a lot of questions about where the term “Ham Radio” came from. Well here is a little history:

Why radio amateurs are called Hams? (from Florida Skip Magazine - 1959)

Have you ever wondered why radio amateurs are called hams? Well, it goes like this: The word "ham" as applied to 1908 was the station call of the first amateur wireless stations operated by some amateurs of the Harvard Radio Club. They were Albert S. Hyman, Bob Almy and Poogie Murray. 

At first they called their station, Hyman-Almy-Murray. Tapping out such a long name in code soon became tiresome and called for a revision. They changed it to HY-AL-MU, using the first two letters of each of their names. Early in 1901, some confusion resulted between signals from amateur wireless station, HYALMU, and a Mexican ship named, HYALMO. They then decided to use only the first letter of each name, and the station call became HAM. 

 In the early pioneer days of unregulated radio, amateur operators picked their own frequency and call-letters. Then as now, some amateurs had better signals than commercial stations. The resulting interference came to the attention of congressional committees in Washington, and Congress gave much time to proposed legislation designed to critically limit amateur radio activity. 

In 1911, Albert Hyman chose the controversial Wireless Regulation Bill as the topic for his thesis at Harvard. His instructor insisted that a copy be sent to Senator David I. Walsh, a member of one of the committees hearing the bill. The senator was so impressed with the thesis that he asked Hyman to appear before the committee. Albert Hyman took the stand and described how the little station was built and almost cried when he told the crowded committee room that if the bill went through, they would have to close down the station because they could not afford the license fees and all the other requirements which the bill imposed on amateur stations. 

Congressional debate began on the Wireless Regulation Bill and little station, HAM, became the symbol for all the little amateur stations in the country crying to be saved from the menace and greed of the big commercial stations who didn't want them around. The bill finally got to the floor of Congress and every speaker talked about the "...poor little station, HAM." That's how it all started. You will find the whole story in the Congressional Record. 

Nation-wide publicity associated station "HAM" with amateur radio operators. From that day to this, and probably until the end of time, in radio an amateur is a “Ham”. 

We will be conducting this hamfest on May 6th from 10am – 4pm. We will have seminars on satellite communications, ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Service), about what's new about ham radio. We'll have the barbee on also, so you can get a great bite to eat as you check out all the tables and vendors.  

This is MARA's main fundraising activity, so there will be great door prizes, raffles and other items that may tickle your fancy. Note: You must be present to win the door prizes. There will be t-shirts and other items related to Ham Radio. 

If you would like to have a table for selling electronic equipment, please contact Kent/KL4AY at Door entrance donation will be $3 and the barbee is $5. 

We would like to really thank all the vendors and sponsors from around the Valley for their support. Our webpage,, and our MARA Facebook page will have a list of those sponsors and contributors, so you can stop by and thank them for their support. The location for the event is at the Wasilla Boys & Girls Club at E 5700 Bogard Rd.

Our activities are centered on various venues: the Women’s Gold Nugget Triathlon, one of the main races for the Kona Triathlon, the MS 150 bike race from Girdwood to Hope and back, the Dog Jog, a great event to have with your pets and the Jr. Iditarod in February   

Then there are various emergency preparedness fairs at Matsu College, Sportsman Warehouse and Menard Sports Center where you can learn how to be ready for an emergency and where Ham Radio assists several agencies and cities around the state: the Girl Scout Encampment, coming in June at the State Fair Grounds, and the Boy Scout Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) in October. We are also conducting Ham Radio license classes to help folks get their license and join in this wonderful hobby.

Our monthly meetings are the last Friday of every month at Fire Station 61 at 7pm. Our luncheons are on the third Tuesday of the month at Chepo’s. You can follow all of this plus photos of all our activities on our Facebook page.

Our motto is, “When all else fails call a Ham.” So stop by and visit, also check out our mobile communications and support trailers. If you have any questions about the event contact Betty/KL1XL at 907-376-9549 or Sheila/KL3TP at 907-746-1013.

See you there!