Hamvention® brings together manufacturers, dealers and other exhibitors with hams who are eager to see, touch and buy the newest and best radio equipment. Many of the major and minor ham manufacturers send large delegations to show their new product lines. Several hundred dealers bring large amounts of stock and hope they sell out. Prizes, large and small, are given away in hourly drawings.
Hamvention® also features a 10-acre outdoor flea market (over 2000 spaces) where some hams sell their accumulated junk to other hams who take home "superlative values."
The Saturday evening Hamvention Banquet is usually held in downtown Dayton and features a full sit-down dinner with music, an awards presentation and prize drawing. It was at this drawing, on my first year of attendance that I won 4th prize, a wattmeter that I still use today. For 1998 the banquet was moved to the Nutter Center at Wright State University. See below.
On Sunday afternoon, Hara Arena fills with hams waiting for the prize drawings. All the unclaimed hourly prizes are redrawn and awarded beginning at 1 p.m. Then the major prizes are drawn. Usually the top 10 or 12 prizes are quite impressive and valuable, as are many of the hourly prizes. The Prize Committee does a very good job of giving everyone a chance to win the big prize although they announce the major prizes in reverse order. They have special rules that permit Committee members to win if their ticket is drawn, just like everyone else, but if this happens, they redraw and give away a duplicate prize. This way everybody wins. I've always been appreciative of their thinking in this area.
I've been to Dayton 13 times: each year from 1982 through 1994 and then in 1998. When you've been to Dayton in April, you've been rained on; thus I did not go in 1995. It was announced in 1994 that the 1996 Hamvention would be moved back three weeks to the third weekend in May. From what I've heard about 1995, this worked well and there have been none of the rain problems that plagued earlier years. In 1998 it was hot all day, every day. There is no public parking at the arena itself. Paid parking is available near the arena or you can park at malls and ride in on buses.
(I'm still looking for some of my earlier programs to fill in some of the history of Hamvention, hoping to answer the question, "Dayton?")
I like to fly into Dayton a few days before the Hamvention begins, so that I can get settled, see a little bit of the area and recover from jet-lag. (When I did booth duty for Advanced Computer Controls, Inc., we always arrived early so we could set up the booth.) There are many things to see and do in the Dayton area.
The Hamvention® doesn't actually take place within the corporation limits of Dayton. The lines of jurisdiction/corporate limits are very jagged throughout the area; for many years the arena was in Harrison Township; in 1998 it seemed to have been annexed into Trotwood; of maybe it was just the Trotwood Police that handled the traffic control on nearby streets. I saw them temporarily replacing several metal traffic control signs with ones that altered the traffic pattern to get cars in and out more quickly.
Hara Arena consists of several buildings that have been built for different purposes over the years that are combined into one large complex during Hamvention®. It's a popular venue for hockey, rock concerts and other large shows during the rest of the year. (Some of the facilities bear witness to the abuse from some types of fans.)
Many of the hotels and motels that fill up (for miles around!) are in the City of Dayton but many are in the nearby cities of Vandalia, Englewood, Huber Heights, Riverside, Tipp City, Xenia, Troy and Fairborn, to name a few. I know of people who have had to stay in Cincinnati (about an hour south) and Richmond, Indiana (a couple hours west).
Members of many small radio clubs in the area are also members of the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, which sponsors Hamvention®. They literally begin planning next year's Hamvention® the week after they've cleaned up from the last one.
One of the major things to see in while you're in Dayton is the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. This huge and still-growing facility is home to dozens of aircraft, displayed both outdoors and indoors, including fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft and spacecraft. There is also memorabilia from all wars in which the United States has been a participant. Touring the museum is very educational while bringing up feelings of pride in our forbears, sadness at their deaths, and patriotism. The (no admission fee) walking tour takes you from the beginnings of flight to modern equipment and supplies. There are displays of uniforms and insignia, many donated or loaned by their owners. There are displays of military art and model planes. Gift shop items include books, clothing, insignia, coffee cups, and many more items. A short drive away (still on the grounds) is the Annex, which includes several presidential aircraft.
((Flown to the museum on May 20, 1998 was the military version of the Boeing 707 used by all U.S. presidents from Kennedy to Clinton, tail number 26000.))
Not far down the road from Hara Arena are two of my favorite places: the Salem Mall and the Meijer Store (pronounced "meyer"). Both parking lots are used for overflow parking, with shuttle service to the Arena. The Salem Mall has a number of clothing and gift shops, food court and more. I enjoy it because even when it rains, I can get out of the car and walk around ("aerobic exercise"). Meijer is something else. It's just huge! You can buy anything from fresh-baked pastries to motor oil . . . children's clothing to gardening needs . . . I can't think of anything like it, with the possible exception of Wal-Mart.
During one of my trips to the Hamvention® I drove down to Cincinnati, about an hour south of Dayton. They have a wonderful Zoo there. It was well worth the donation they ask.
During a different trip, I drove to Columbus to visit their Zoo. I couldn't find Jack Hanna but it was a nice place to visit. This is not their official web site (couldn't find one) but it gives some helpful information.
You'll find many of your favorite places in the Dayton area: many McDonald's restaurants, convenience stores abound, gas stations of all kinds, Bonanza Steak Houses, drive-though liquor stores (maybe I'll explain this later), drug and discount stores, two AAA offices that I've found, pizza and spaghetti restaurants, Arby's, various other restaurants, including the Shuckin' Shack, Marion's Piazza, Bob Evans, Wendy's, etc.
South and east of the Arena was the Bombay Bicycle Club, a not-to-be-missed sit-down restaurant. I was notified in October 1997 that the Bombay Bicycle Club is no longer there. On my 1998 trip I confirmed that it was torn down. Sigh. We had many post-Hamvention cool-downs there.
The Hamvention® Banquet is usually held at the Dayton Convention Center in the downtown area, which is connected by overhead walkways to the parking garage. If I recall correctly, you can park on Level 2, just a few steps from the "down" ramp, so that you're in an excellent position to make a quick getaway when it's over. The prize drawing is the last item on the banquet agenda. Listen closely for your ticket number and if you don't win a prize, move quickly for the escalator, through the walkways to the garage, passing all the high-schoolers attending their proms, get to your car and get on outta there, back to your hotel without getting trapped in a long line.
For 1998, the Banquet was held at the Nutter Center at Wright State University in nearby Fairborn, Ohio, not far from Wright-Patterson AFB. See Dave's Dayton Trip 1998 for more details.
If you're in town for a while, you can take a half-day trip west on Interstate 70 to Richmond, Indiana. It's the home of many major recreational vehicle manufacturers and dealers. Just remember that Indiana doesn't change to Daylight Savings time, so when you cross the state line, you're also crossing a time zone. They look at you funny at McDonald's when you ask for a cheeseburger at 9:30 a.m. (their time!).
One of the nice, small things we look for in the Dayton area is the house belonging to a woman who lives on Wolf Road, not far from the Arena, who dresses a ceramic goose, on her front porch, with nice knitted sweaters and hats.
(( Since I first wrote that sentence, I have been informed that this is not uncommon in some of the residential areas around Dayton. The next time I visit, I plan to check some of those areas and if I have a camera, take a few pictures. Hmm, what is the proper way to ask a lady for permission to photograph her goose? ))
I found a number of dressed and undressed geese on my 1998 trip and took several pictures, which I hope to post. Things are a little different in the Dayton area. You notice that their traffic signals hang from wires instead of being mounted on poles (and unfortunately, they operate by "time" instead of by "traffic demand"). You notice that many people don't have a fence around their back yard. You notice many two-lane roads and few multiple-lane freeways. You also notice that people greet you politely when you enter a store or gas station. It's quite a pleasant change from the big city.
In summary, the Dayton Hamvention® experience is quite amazing. Visiting Dayton may not be the high point of your life, but your life may not be complete unless you visit.