When Orlando HamCation hosted the ARRL Southeastern Division Convention February 10-12, it posted a new attendance record. As a result of its growing popularity, the Orlando show may now be the third largest ham radio gathering in the world — behind the JARL Tokyo Ham Fair, with an estimated 37,000 attendees in 2016, and Hamvention®, which attracts some 25,000 visitors each May. This year, HamCation logged a record 19,000 attendees, up from 2,000 last year, moving it ahead of Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
HamCation’s sponsor, the ARRL-affiliated Orlando Amateur Radio Club, has announced the retirement of HamCation Chairman Peter Meijers, AI4KM, who has headed up the show for 10 years. Michael Cauley, W4MCA, will succeed him. Cauley has served for 7 years as HamCation’s Tailgate Chairman, for 6 years as the IT Chairman, and for 1 year as Finance Chairman.
“Peter had planned on retiring at the end of the 2016 show, but I asked if he would stay on one more year, which he agreed,” said OARC President John Knott, N4JTK. “I’m extremely sad to see Peter retire, but totally understand that after 9 shows he felt it was time for a little rest!” Knott said planning for HamCation 2018 “starts now!”
Representing ARRL Headquarters at HamCation this year were CEO Tom Gallagher, NY2RF; ARRL Marketing Manager Bob Inderbitzen, NQ1R, and ARRL Contest Branch Manager Bart Jahnke, W9JJ. They were joined by ARRL Southeastern Director Greg Sarratt, W4OZK; Vice Director Joey Tiritilli, N4ZUW; Northern Florida Section Manager Steve Szabo, WB4OMM; ARRL Honorary Vice President Frank Butler, W4RH, and a handful of other ARRL Field Organization volunteers.
Szabo and Sarratt moderated the standing-room-only ARRL Forum, which Gallagher and Inderbitzen attended, while Jahnke supported an ARRL Contesting Forum. Also attending was ARES E-Letter Editor Rick Palm, K1CE, who described the forum as “all positive” and focused on how to gain the attention and interest of younger people.
“[O]ne comment that struck me came from a member of the Lakeland Amateur Radio Club, who said that the club had faced declining attendance at club meetings and membership until they eliminated the business portions of the meetings in favor of more hands-on, show-and-tell demonstrations of equipment, modes and antennas, which turned into big hits,” he recounted.
The ARRL College Amateur Radio Initiative (CARI) enjoyed attention throughout HamCation. Gallagher, wearing a “Penn” sweatshirt for his University of Pennsylvania alma mater, welcomed attendees to a CARI Forum, moderated by Andy Milluzzi, KK4LWR.
Volunteer Don Search, W3AZD, headed up DXCC card checking. Membership sign-ups were brisk, Inderbitzen reported, “and we couldn’t have kept up without the additional help of volunteers Lindy Gallagher and Dr. Sherry Mahafza, KM4VSW.”
Jahnke and Inderbitzen also attended the Florida Contest Group dinner, which included a keynote presentation by elite contester Tim Duffy, K3LR.
“I’m extremely grateful for Peter Meijers’ long and dedicated service to Orlando HamCation,” Inderbitzen said. “He’s done an incredible job — a true and good leader in our Amateur Radio Service. I know how much hard work goes into organizing a convention, and Peter has always been the right person for this important job. I appreciate all the ways Peter, his wife Lidy, KJ4LMM, and his fellow Orlando HamCation and OARC members have supported ARRL, and our common resolve to advance Amateur Radio together.”
Inderbitzen has posted a photo album on ARRL’s Facebook page.