By Ginger Schmidt
HENLEYFIELD — The Pearl River County Amateur Radio Club hosted their annual field day event over the weekend demonstrating their abilities to operate under “other-than-normal” circumstances, providing a way for local hams to share their passion with family and friends and providing a little friendly competition between clubs throughout the 50 states and Canada.
Field Day was a 24-hour event, lasting from 12 noon on Saturday until 12 noon on Sunday. Unlike previous years, where the group held their event in Poplarville, this year’s venue, the Henleyfield Community Center in the Henleyfield Community, allowed for new features to the activities, such as an 805 foot loop antennae which completely circled the venue’s ball field.
During the event, where the Pearl River County club was competing against clubs from around the country in the class 2A category (meaning at least two radio stations were running simultaneously), the group had several stations running, including a Morse code station (CW), an educational table, the GOTA (get on the air) station and a voice and digital station. Each station had its own laptop for logging hours and data for the competition and the GOTA station provided a unique opportunity for the unlicensed or those that had let their licenses lapse, to get on the air and have the amateur radio experience first hand.
If all else fails, we know Ham radios will be available in an emergency, said David Moore, the communications officer for Pearl River County Emergency Management. He said that this exercise demonstrates the club’s capabilities to operate during unusual circumstances, such as a weather event. To reiterate the point, generators and solar panels were being used to provide the power that was used during field day.
While Moore appreciated the competition aspect of field day among other radio clubs, he said the local club’s goal went behind just trying to win an award. The Pearl River County field day was more about providing a casual family atmosphere to its members. Several families were out enjoying the day and a husband an wife amateur radio team was assisting with the voice and digital station.
“We are just a bunch of [men and women] doing something we love,” said Larry Wagoner, vice President of the Pearl River County Amateur Radio Club.
Previously thought of more as a hobby, interest in learning about ham radio and getting licensed to operate on air has grown in popularity since Hurricane Katrina. Wagoner said that before the storm ham radio was just practiced in the county by a few people and Katrina brought attention and awareness to the hobby. “It’s grown a lot,” he said.
Wagoner also said the Pearl River County club is one of the fastest growing amateur radio clubs in the state, because of the storm and because they participate in more activities than most. In addition to the national annual field day, the group participates in several other activities, including the Picayune Street Fair, Blueberry Jubilee and a yearly Hamfest where the local organization hosts a venue for all ham operators to talk, sell and trade.
“We would like to invite anyone who wants to become a ham to please contact us,” said Wagoner who teaches licensing classes for those interested in getting started with amateur radio. The local club also has ability to administer testing.
For more information on joining the Pearl River County Amateur Radio Club, or on obtaining a ham operator license, visit www.prcarc.com.