Dayton Hamvention 2008 Follow-Up Report No. 21 – Dayton the Unwashed

The more I reflect on Dayton 2008, specially contrasted with expositions, conventions and events I have attended elsewhere, the question begs “Why is the Hamvention in Dayton?”

Is time running out for this show in this city?

Time Running Out


The Hara was a filth pile. Unswept, vendors with roof leaks in their areas, toliets out of service, broken door hardware, windows grey from not being washed.


The Salem Mall remote parking was a dodge-em of pot holes, uneven pavement, construction debris, various levels, knee high weeds & thistles, and poorly thought out pedestrian walk patterns taped off – it was about like parking in a construction site.


The surrounding area is full of abandoned stores, empty buildings, buildings in various stages of either natural or controlled demolition and basically an area of heavy blight.


Special events I attended were mostly at the Crown Plaza, which is for DX and Contestors the unofficial center of activity outside of the Hara. Though the events were great, the Crown Plaza Hotel is still under reconstruction (it was last year too!), there were broken toilets, the hotel provided a single toilet for the needs of 220 Contest University attendees and the same for multi hundred person groups of Major Dinner Attendees, locking those toilets during the Supersuite Events as they have a homeless people problem, attached parking ramp featuring broken elevators, corners of the stairs having been used as toilets, unwashed windows & missing signage.


I could go on, covering the volunteer’s complaints of late notification of tasking, the Flea Market slot assignment computer chaos, the volunteers & paid staff who were not fully briefed and their supervisors who also seemed to be unbriefed.

But lets reflect on the various other shows I’ve attended – Construction shows with a fraction of the Hamvention’s attendance at Navy Pier in Chicago, in New Orleans, in Dallas, in Minneapolis, in Milwaukee, in Kansas City, or hobby shows in Atlanta, Milwaukee, London (UK), Green Bay, Chicago, Manchester (UK), Birmingham (UK), or other industry shows in Dusseldorf (Germany), Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, or minor shows in Bilbao (Spain), Mannheim (Germany), Verdun (France), Toronto (Canada), Winnipeg (Canada), dozens of Wisconsin cities (Madison, Wausau, Stevens Point, Lacrosse, Eau Claire and more) – in all of these I do not recall a single one that was as shabby as Dayton.

In the few cases where a show’s venue didn’t meet basic expectations, it simply was moved for the next year to somewhere that was better!  These shows don’t settle for second, third or fourth best…….

I’ve had a number of emails from various hams telling me that they are looking to attend this or that alternative to Dayton, mostly based on the shabbiness of Dayton.

Looking at the cost to drive to Dayton and the costs for sloppy hotels (I can stay at the Intercontinental Downtown Chicago in luxury for what a junky “traveller’s room” costs at Dayton), I am wondering if my personal cost/benefit ratio would be higher if I attended a European Ham Show or perhaps the California DX Show?

Certainly the Dayton show has limited curb appeal for many XYLs. Perhaps that is OK, but I can go to an “All Canada Show” and not have to put up with the squalor and wonder if my car would be there in the morning.

Will the Hamvention remain at Dayton is the other large question. Several writers have been proposing that other cities get to bid on the Hamvention, with the goal of securing a kept up cleaner facility not in the midst of massive urban decay.

Only time will tell if the Hamvention moves before the Hams do, or if the Ham community adopts other shows leaving the Hamvention in Dayton like some aging former beauty queen ignoring the wrinkles and infirmaries of age?

Would appreciate hearing your comments!



Tagged , ,

48 thoughts on “Dayton Hamvention 2008 Follow-Up Report No. 21 – Dayton the Unwashed

  1. Scot, K9JY says:

    First, the reason the Hamvention is in Dayton is because of a very forward-thinking group of Dayton Hams as part of the Dayton Amateur Radio Club. The fact that they can continue to pull this off, given the size, is truly remarkable. Hats off to them.

    The last time I was at Dayton, now 5-6 years ago when I lived in Chicago-land, there was discussion of moving the event someplace else within Dayton, but out of Hara arena. For many of the same reasons mentioned here. At the end, for whatever the negotiations, there was a decision to stay at Hara. I don’t know if it was because there was no where else to hold the event in Dayton or what. If I recall, there was a multi-year contract signed. I’d be curious to know if that is still the case.

    But, it was still in Dayton.

    I’m on your end here. I think it is time to move the city. The reason the hotels can charge so much is that the city is simply too small for an event that large. Whoever is responsible for the Hara center, they clearly don’t get that maintenance means something. Ditto for the hotels.

    Ohio is a very good place to hold the event — it is within driving distance of some 2/3 of the Ham population (don’t know exact number, but it’s large). Those of us on the West Coast who need to fly always have to make a connection to get to Dayton — bad news in this day and age.

    So, Columbus. Cincinnati. Maybe Indianapolis. Or, for that matter, how about Chicago? Or Memphis.

    The problem with moving the city is that it makes it very difficult for the Dayton club to continue sponsoring the event. If a different club would take over or help, a lot of expertise would be lost.

    But, I think it is time to rethink what the Hamvention means. In my book, it is becoming less relevant than before because much of the allure of Dayton is outside the event’s revenue generating control: the contesting dinner. DX Dinner. Four Days in May QRP. Contester’s University. The contesting suites. And I’m missing 20 more.

    The rethinking should center on what a true Hamvention would be all about — all of those events and forums plus all of the vendors and clubs. All under control of the organizers that generates some revenue.

    But Dayton has lost its allure for the exact conditions you describe. It’s time that copyrighted “Hamvention” took a good look at itself and did some innovation — and moved.

    Good post. I’m hoping it generates some needed discussion on the pros and cons of Dayton, the conditions, and other possibilities.

  2. I’ve been meaning to blog about Dayton.. I may just brain dump here and point people to it ;)

    I was a regular at Dayton every year during the latter half of the 90s. I haven’t been since 99 or so and decided to go this year with a long list of items to find from commercial vendors and flea market alike. So here are my thoughts:

    — Ditto everything you said. 10 years ago things were so different, but that side of Dayton (well and the city overall) is just going downhill quickly.

    — I rolled up to the Hara about :15 before the flea market opened and was able to park right across the street! That time of day the last time I went meant you had to park a half mile away at the closest. It was obvious quickly that the attendance this year isn’t what it use to be. I’m sure gas prices hurt as well.

    — Hitup the flea market first thing in the morning for the good deals.. Found a couple that I would consider great deals and worth the trip but not good enough deals to balance out the cost of gas/hamvention ticket. Part of this I blame on ebay for the lack of depreciation in used gear. I bought my first mobile/base vhf rig, a radioshack htx-212 used from Dayton in 96 for $50. Today that rig goes for $75 on ebay (plus shipping) and I saw one at Dayton for $75. Sure, inflation and all, but they haven’t been making that model for years so you know its well used. I swore to some new hams that they would be able to find similar deals, a somewhat recent model used mobile single band radio for $50-75 but that was a stretch this year.. I couldn’t find some of the items I thought I would be able to find in the flea market, and the flea market overall wasn’t as packed at it use to be. Too many vans taking up flea market spaces just to be used as close proximity parking and storage (not that the lack of those vehicles would produce more flea market vendors). Remember the “radio shack tent”?

    — I skipped the forums. Looked into a couple of them to see a packed room with little ventilation (back to what you said about the Hara’s condition).

    To top it off, I was relying on Twitter to contact and meet up with some other hams and Twitter was busted that day. So aside from meeting up with some other friends at Dayton, it wasn’t all that great. Thankfully it was just a 3 hour drive for me so travel costs were not outrageous.

    It would be great to move the Hamvention to a more attractive venue. Realistically I don’t think it would happen. I kindof see the DARA as being an organization that is large enough to pull off the event, and that continues to grow partially because of the Hamvention.

    Besides, we all know how well some people in ham radio take to new ideas.. I still hear gripes about the CW requirement being dropped, and about IRLP “that ain’t radio!”. Imagine the bands light up with excitement over moving Dayton away from Dayton!

    If they do ever move it, I might just go back…

    -Corey KB9JHU

  3. David, K2DBK says:

    Thanks for the great article Steve. I’ve never made it to Dayton, and based on your comments, as well as others, I’m not sure that I’d want to go anymore. I spoke with one vendor (after his return) and he said he thought the crowds were way down, and echoed your comments about the general state of Hara in particular, and the area in general.

    I don’t know if the explanation about using a facility as apparently run-down as Hara is the typical “hams are cheap” argument, but I agree with your comment about other conventions giving up and moving if the facility isn’t up to snuff. The unique problem with Hamvention (c) is that it’s run by a local group, not a commercial entity. I don’t know what the solution is, but I’m disappointed that things have deteriorated as much as you (and others) have reported.

  4. k9zw says:

    Many thanks for the first comments.

    I should clarify that I too am grateful for the volunteer efforts of the sponsoring group.

    It is a HUGE amount of work to put something this scale together.

    That said the problems are still there.

    Perhaps the Hamvention trademark is an attempt to Brand the event something other than “The Dayton ham Fest” in preparation of the day it moves to a better venue?

    Perhaps the economic realities of expensive land travel has made the amateur think twice about “is it worth it?”

    Perhaps the perception that “Hams are Cheap” somehow has gained a life of its own, despite the fact that some hams have always bought their generation’s S-lines, FTdx-9000s and Hiberlings.

    I know a number of hams who never spend less than $15,000-$20,000 each Dayton Hamvention on gear. I know quite afew who spend at least a couple $K each year a the show.

    Now I don’t know how many of my blog’s readers have read Tom Clancy’s “Executive Orders” and then have reflected the depth of vulnerability of the Dayton Hamvention?

    Hopefully such a scenario where a biological attack was directed against a group of technologists all gather at one event is pure fiction, but the venue is 20+ years out of sync with the realities of providing crowd protection.

    Could you see bringing your wife or significant other to Dayton?

    Anyone else notice the armed guards/bouncers at many of the downtown restaurants?

    Did you watch the local news while in Dayton? Did you know that Dayton’s crime rate is twice national averages?

    I certainly wouldn’t cast that the Dayton Hamvention is “bad.” But as they say it presents “ample opportunity for improvement.”

    Your thoughts?



  5. Bob K0NR says:

    Your comments are right on. There are other hamfests (usually smaller) that have quality venues. So it can be done.

    It is important not to dis the DARA volunteers. It takes a tremendous amount of work to pull off this event each and every year. When I tell people that I am headed to the world’s largest ham radio convention in Dayton, they often ask “why in Dayton?” Its because that’s where a big enough, active enough club exists to pull it off.

    73, Bob K0NR

  6. mike/wa4d says:


    The very length of the early posts here shows the depth of interest in the subject.

    I’m trying to understand your sensitivity to the Dayton Club’s efforts. You all point out how grateful you are for their hard they work, when in fact they are incompetent . No self respecting organization would tolerate the examples cited in your remarks.

    If this is an effort to show solidarity with the Dayton hams it is misguided.

    Dayton is a rust belt low tech city. And it is a metaphor for amateur radio. I suggest to you all, that the Dayton ham fest will still be up and running next year and the year after with little change.


  7. k9zw says:

    What are the thoughts as more hams move to attend the International DX Convention, Visalia CA – Hamcom in PlanoTX – or other events?



  8. So I’m a bit hypocritical.. I would love the hamvention to move, but I don’t put enough into it as it is (budget-wise) to afford attending if it were moved to say CA or TX. Gas, food, ticket, and my purchases all included I probably spent $350..

    That said.. I would probably love to spend more on travel if the venue and event offered a better experience. As of now I guess I’m just so jaded that the hamvention in any other city is still the just the hamvention. Maybe its time to start from scratch.

    This is a tangent from the topic of venue but there was something else I observed at Dayton.. I was only there for Friday, and did the marathon run (wake up at 4:30 AM, back home and in bed after midnight). When I got to Dayton in the morning I listened in on the talk-in. It’s amazing that in this day in age of mapquest and vehicular GPS directions that people still show up to the city limits and ask “where do I go from here?”, but I digress. There was a station causing constant profane interference on the repeater. This happens, its unfortunate, and has nothing to do with the venue or organizers. What surprised me most is that I was back on the road late in the evening and it was STILL going on.

    With the highest density of hams in one location and porcupine vehicles all over the city, you’d think someone would jump on the chance to fox hunt this guy out. And maybe someone did on Sat/Sun (anybody know?).. I was just surprised to hear this guy still causing trouble some 14 hours later in the day.

    -Corey KB9JHU

  9. Non-Imus says:

    I’ll keep my callsign out of this, as I worked my booth inside the arena.

    1. First time I’d been there in about 15 years.
    2. Attendance down about 6-8,000 since the 90’s.
    3. Volunteers vs. pro trade show organizers: no comparison.
    4. Hara is a dying husk and probably cheap, like many hams.
    5. Pro show organizers are not cheap, like many hams.
    6. Elite/country-club venues are not cheap, like many hams.
    7. There was alot of new technology on display.
    8. The big 3 will have to play catch-up.
    9. Cincy area would be better geographically, but is a big Dayton.
    10. Coastal shows will always be smaller, especially with fuel prices.

    (Anonymity for this post approved by K9ZW in respect to the author’s industry position.)

  10. Scot, K9JY says:

    Mike/WA4D — The sensitivity to the club is they have few location choices for the Hamvention. One can argue that this year fell down a bit in the organization side and anyone should get dinged by that lack.

    On the other hand, how many venues can support an event the size of the Hamvention — in Dayton? How much of Hara maintenance work can a club control? How much control does the club have over hotels who rebuild for many years?

    They have the same control that we have over the Hamvention: none. Our only choice is to not spend our money to go to the event (which look like happened).

    That is why in my comment I advocated for moving the event to a different, larger city — competitive venues and a convention size that doesn’t take over the city.

    The question for the club is this one: can you create and run the Hamvention in a town where you are not? Professional organizations do, but these people are Hams doing this for “fun.” It’s a good question.

    Corey — we just SAY we’re about technology. But the truth is, most any new technology introduced in the hobby has to overcome the huge attitude that “the way the hobby is right now is how it needs to be until the end of time.” Of course, that’s true of most of us, but I always crack up when we say we are into the new technology and then listen to an idiot doing profanity on a repeater…

    All good comments here, Steve. Sometimes we need to write about the elephant in the room when no one else does. For the Hamvention, Dayton is the elephant in the room hanging over the after action review of the convention.

  11. (another tangent from the hamvention topic)

    @Scot yup.. There is quite a generation gap in ham radio that feeds the technology dilemma (not necessarily a generation gap in terms of age but in attitudes, sometimes there is a correlation there).

    this is something that needs to be overcome for the survival of ham radio, and not to be crude but it might just be overcome through time as the next generation grows.

    So first off, there needs to be a shift in attitude towards new ham radio technology.

    Secondly, there needs to be that new technology. This has been a recent theme on the aprssig list. Commercial communications has leap-frogged ham radio. The guys who got me into the hobby in the early 90s for easy affordable communications haven’t picked up a radio in years thanks to cell phones and the internet. In terms of the APRS discussion, APRS supports text messaging but the devices that use it pale in comparison to cell phones.

    So what is the next new technology? What will attract the next generation to ham radio now that general communications has come second to phones & internet?

    Problem #2 feeds problem #1 when new technologies do emerge, gain traction, and opposition.

    Third problem is that the level of entry for developing new technologies has risen above the hobby level. Back in the day, designing and building radios was part of what fueled new features. Nowadays, technology hobbiests stick to writing software, with a smaller barrier for entry. New feature development for ham radio requiring high-end electronics are left to companies and highly skilled individuals.

    The solution? I don’t have it.. I’m just throwing a short rant out there and inconsiderately hijacking a comment thread. (sorry Steve) ;)

    I see this problem as a faculty member of the IU amateur radio club (K9IU), where student participation is dwindling to near 0, and attracting new hams from this generation (age-wise) is tough. Ham radio needs that new edge that 2m once provided for local communications before cell phones.

    Cheers & 73,
    -Corey KB9JHU

  12. mike/wa4d says:


    Gents…..there is “no problem”. Ham radio has been passed by. Technologically and Culturally. This is a natural evolutionary development.

    The slowed or negligible rate of growth, the spectacular rise of the net and worldwide connectivity and the absence of “next gen” ham devices are not to “blame”. The “net” is where the real action is. Substantively, technically and most certainly culturally.

    I could easily make the case that youth who are achievers have no business in ham radio. (Actually that’s a good blog posting topic I’ll write downstream)

    As I concluded on my blog posting today: The vulgar Dayton Hamvention is the metaphor for the hobby at large. Most Hams deserve the Dayton of 2008. It is who they are.


  13. Lee AB5IG says:

    A serious comparison the the “OTHER” worlds largest hamfest would be an interesting study. I attend and sell at both Dayton and Friedrichshafen every year in the flea market area. The German hamfest, which is similar in size and now may be larger, conveys youth, health, and individual growth/experimentation much more than Dayton does. I enjoy both and actually will be back to Dayton next year, but Ham Radio 2008 in Friedrichshafen continues to grow while Hamvention 2008 really continued a downward slide this year. By the way, gas is $9/gallon in Europe and hotels are even more expensive than Dayton!

  14. k9zw says:

    Again my thanks to everyone putting in their thoughts!

    I tallied up my Dayton costs and before I bought anything direct costs were in the $1100 range.

    This excludes opportunity costs or those sort of indirect costs we usually don’t tally up (like wear & tear on the vehicle, which would add another $600 in my case).

    I can attend a show just about anywhere in the USA or Europe for the aggregate $1700 of direct & indirect costs, specially if I am careful.

    Dayton may be a club led event for “cheap hams” but it is not a cheap event to attend from 8 hours away.

    For my Dayton investment (which doesn’t include the value of three days off of work) I could have bought a new Transceiver. Or an antenna, or a Laptop plus several suites of software. Or taken the XYL on a short cruise, earning me domestic points rather than burning points up.

    Or, because I like getting together with other hams, I could go to somewhere warm while it is still cold at home and attend a Ham Event somewhere clean, clear of urban blight, easy to get to, pretty and safe.

    Or I could have even taken a mini-DXpedition, operating from poolside somewhere wonderful.

    DARA has Dayton and The Hara as nearly 100% givens. They have to deal with what cards they have been dealt.

    I don’t, and have a wide world of options to consider. Many which are looking better the more I reflect on the Dayton DIrt & Debris.




  15. w4kaz says:

    @AB5IG – Lee, what would account for the differences? Any speculations? Is it just that the EU target audience is younger?

    @K9ZW – Steve, that last thought sums up the situation. You have options, but the Hamvention does not(or not many that are viable).

    I made my first trip to Dayton in 2000. It is indeed somewhat different. eBay killed the radio star. I would think that a venue change at this point would possibly do the Hamvention more harm than good.

    My own speculation is that folks have made the same calculation, that the money spent on the trip could finance a lot of internet vendor shack purchases. Even Radio Shack doesn’t sell a lot of things they used to sell – like radios. There is a sort of a clue there. Also, there are so many options today on parting one’s self with his discretionary income, not to mention time.

    My own total direct expense total was significantly lower for my eight hour/four day trip. If I had to shuck out $1100, I would be having second thoughts too!

    But since a trip to Friedrichshafen is unlikely in my near future, the Hamvention, warts and all, is still the best game in driving distance. That’s a commentary on the piteous state of the smaller hamfests too.

    73 de w4kaz

  16. Scot, K9JY says:

    What separates the Dayton Hamvention from other conventions (for example, I attended the W9DXCC for years when I lived in the Midwest) is the sheer number of vendors, the size of the flea market, and the ancillary networking opportunities (the DX Dinner, the contest suite, contesting university, etc.).

    Typical hamfests offer tables of stuff to sell and little forum activity. They are typically one day. You see people by chance. There is nothing built around the hamfest itself (like a contesting university).

    Typical regional conventions, such as W9DXCC or Visalia, are typically a Friday night get together, a Saturday of programs, a Saturday night of banquet and speaker, and a Sunday morning breakfast. Few vendors. No swapmeet. One to two hotels tops.

    The question remains: what do we want a “ham convention” to be? If it is everything Hamvention, it means that all these other ancillary events need to come along with the Hamvention revenue producing parts of the program today. Is a swap meet critical? If not, for example, we don’t need the space.

    Comparing, for example, Visalia to Dayton is like comparing apples to hubcaps. They are both things, but they are no where close to the same.

    Here’s what to preserve for a Hamvention in my opinion:

    Vendors with products
    Clubs/organizations (for example, ARRL)
    Forums — even have more
    Ancillary events like the DX Dinner, but have those events be part of the Hamvention itself (needs to be revenue producing for the event).
    Decent food to feed the weary on site.
    Air conditioning.

    No swapfest. No radio event station.

    That, along with a location reachable by car within 8-hours from “anywhere” east of the Mississippi River and you’re golden.

    Nice discussion, Steve!

  17. […] He presents it well and there is a very good comment thread after the article about the decision to stay or leave. Check out the article — and the comments — in Dayton Hamvention 2008 Follow-Up Report No. 21 — Dayton the Unwashed. […]

  18. w4kaz says:

    Ah. One other thing.

    In the not too distant past, a discussion like this thread would only be done ‘on the air’, via snail-mail, or (wait for it….)

    AT the Hamvention!

    The very fact of more rapid communication probably has some effect on the novelty of the Hamvention as an ‘event’.

    I remember, as a kid, of making ‘long distance’ phone calls which were quite expensive for their day. Today, no problem. Skype all day if you want to. I even have “unlimited lower 48” on my regular land line now.

    This must also be a factor in attendance declines.

    Hara is itself a ‘blast from the past’, aina?

  19. k9zw says:

    Again thanking all for the insightful comments.

    A quick run down on my numbers – $240 in fuel, $30 in Tolls & Non-Hara Parking, $500 Hotel bill, $150 Entry Fee, Parking, Contest University, & Contest Dinner, $240 meals over four days, $10 KOA Visitor’s Fee (really) and then I rounded down to the $1100

    What I found of value at Hamvention 2008 were Contest University, Forums, face time with vendors, hands-on-time on potential purchases and enough discount on larger cost items to make a serious effort at offsetting the direct & indirect expenses to attend.

    I spent a limited time in the Flea Market as I am a poor “wander-shopper” spending time walking the rows looking for that serendipity of just the right deal on something I only just then realized I needed or wanted.

    Rather I crave the opportunity to learn, to gain information and to put people to the voices & email authors I’ve communicated with.

    What tripped your trigger about Dayton and what would you expect of a New-Hamvention rebirthed elsewhere?

    Do enough other hams share that vision?

    How does an event become inclusive enough to interest the most while not disenfranchising too many others?

    If Dayton was yours to remake, what would you do with the Hamvention?




  20. Wait… Do you mean that you had to pay $10 to visit someone at a KOA campground?! I’ve never camped there but geez.. come on!

    How would I do it? My idea is skewed by a lot of technical conferences I attend and given the already established “cheap” nature of us all it might not be a good fit.

    (I would note here that most of those conferences have high ticket prices that usually end up being picked up by employers who send their employees to the conference.. not the case with a hamfest)

    Find a new venue, of course, with the following changes:

    – Large enough exposition hall to house all indoor vendors together in one room rather than sprawled out in the maze of the Hara.

    – Gather tiered sponsorships from the major vendors. Maybe this is already done, but if so I can’t find mention of the sponsors on the website (I see a page for prizes but as of today it still says that “We will be listing the 2008 Hamvention® major prize donors soon.”)

    – Give the top sponsoring vendors a keynote presentation in the conference center. This gives them all a chance to make major announcements and product displays, etc.. without having to do so to 6 people at a time with others pushing and shoving to get around the floor.

    – That said, the venue would need to be able to handle large presentations as such.

    – Block hotels like every other conference does for lower rates

    – Pull the fringe activities in, giving them accommodations needed to pull off their event without taking people away from the conference site.

    The problem with these? As said before, its all about cost. I can imagine tickets costing $300+ for something like that, assuming the conference is moved to a larger city with a bigger, modern conference center. There is a reason the hamvention tickets are so cheap, and a reason why the Hara is in the state it is.

    -Corey KB9JHU

  21. Agreeing with another writer here, the problems with Dayton are the problems with ham radio today. Yes, the Dayton Hamvention is a metaphor for the hobby at large.

    One of the problems we face is that we are not willing to allocate large sums of money to the hobby. For most of us, it’s just a hobby. Yes, we are cheap, but many of our membership have limited funs and other important financial demands. And part of the appeal of ham radio is it’s offerings for inexpensive fun.

    I bristle when vendors complain that we do not spend more money. Just attending Dayton is a big expense. I drove 12 hours each way this year so I could spend more money. There are no bargains in the flea market. The appeal is on the inside where we have a chance to connect with established vendors. We all have our priorities. It’s a free market. Let the vendors vote with their feet. I would hate to see them go, but maybe we can’t afford to keep them.

    Yes, we have an aging population. How attractive would it be for a young person to join a hobby populated with a bunch of grumpy old men. I started on my own at age 14 and now find myself becoming a senior citizen at 59. No other business or interest group complains because youth do not choose their offerings.

    Yes, Dayton is filthy. I’ve attended for the last few years and every year I come home appalled by the conditions and sick with one or another respiratory condition. My advanced years may partly account for it, but, to say again, Hara Arena is filthy and, for me, a health hazard. I intuit that the owners of the property are holding it for some future development. It’s certainly not maintained for events like the Hamvention. I wouldn’t be surprised if the owners would be content to let it fall down. Holding costs, etc. Face it, Hamvention will only get more filthy. Maintenance costs money. Hams are cheap. Round and round we go. We get what we pay for.

    Yes, the Crown Plaza is no gem. And it’s not cheap. But it’s becoming a center piece for the “other” Hamvention. Things evolve. The Contest University is becoming a big part of Dayton. The dinners and the suites are important too. Maybe something will grow out of the Crown Plaza activities that can survive to another venue.

    Our hobby could be rejuvenated by some killer product or application. ICOM is trying hard with D-Star, and it has great potential. Advances in equipment technology are exciting, but they are usually expensive. I do my part to buy the latest and greatest, but I’m still not able to move up to the ICOM 7800. (Thanks ICOM for the chance to dream.) QRP offers the best combination in technology and costs, but it requires more operator expertise. Elecraft may have found a profitable market niche here. Satellite work is exciting, and some forms of it use our existing equipment. Contesting may be our salvation. It doesn’t require big equipment expenditures since it has flighted categories for low power, single operator, etc. It also has the virtue of collegiality.

    Inertia is a powerful force, things at rest, things in motion, etc. Hamvention has inertia because it’s still the biggest hamfest in the country, but it’s in a state of decline. Rather than complain, we may as well make our decision from year to year based on what’s offered and how we want to spend our lives. I’ll go again, but my interest in going to Dayton is declining with the decline of Hamvention. DARC take note.

  22. k9zw says:

    Yes the KOA charges a vistor’s fee. I think I paid for two at the $10, but it did include parking, use of the facilities if we had wanted to use them, and they were kind enough to show us to the remote parking for the KOA site & shuttle us back-and-forth with one of the golf carts.

    I paid the same to park in a potholed empty lot, unattended, to attend the Contest Dinner because the ramp was full.

    In comparison KOA comes off as a deal.



  23. k9zw says:

    The Tickets to Commercial Shows often are $50-$100, and then more for paid forums. Some groups are able to put them on quite inexpensively though. A full convetion “package” can run $400-$600 for a couple at some of these shows, but that will include Dinners & events that are otherwise costly add-ons.

    At some of the shows if you are a Life Member or higher membership, you get reduced or complementary admission.

    Given the expense to get to a Hamvention is the difference between a $25 ticket or a $100 ticket worth much worry?



  24. Oh, I don’t see that much of a ticket hike a big deal.. I’d be more worried about rising transportation costs prohibiting attendance regardless of the location in the future.

    I booked our thanksgiving flights a couple of months back. Ticket was twice what I paid a couple years back (and luckily we only needed 1 ticket, the rest of the family covered under miles). At this rate I can’t fathom what travel costs will be like in a few years. a $75 hike in ticket prices could pale in comparison to the travel increases.

    New plan: ditch hamfesting, take the money that is saved from not traveling and buy up used gear to donate to young potential hams to help fuel the next generation.



  25. Mark Morgan says:

    aas a former resident of Indy let my assure NO ONE would want to host a dayton sized even in indy in MAY let me remind you guy of the the INDy 500

  26. w4kaz says:

    Bucking the thread’s trend – I don’t really have a problem with how the Hamvention is today. I’m kinda glad the Dayton folks put effort into keeping it alive – period.

    I don’t go to such looking for the Las Vegas experience….But I grew up near New Orleans in the 60’s, so the Las Vegas experience is kid’s stuff. :o

    My own expense list:
    $185.00 – Fuel
    $0.00 – Lodging paid for by passenger
    $53.00 – ticket, bus fare, tolls, parking
    $60.00 – approximate food(much of which I’d have spent here at home anyway over a given weekend)

    Call it $325.00, not including vehicle wear-n-tear for the 1300 miles(total) driving. I’m pretty sure I didn’t spend that much buying stuff – just a lark this year.

    73 de w4kaz

  27. k9zw says:

    Perhaps “The Dayton Experience” will continue it’s metamorphous into “Two Daytons”?

    Already we have emergent parallel events, though associated with Hamvention they replace the grotty Hamvention. Contest University is an “add-on” but the Major QRP event makes no pretense about replacing the crappy Hara based activities completely!

    Will the Flea Market be enough of a draw to float the whole Hamvention?

    Will enough ham interested in QRP, Satellites, Contesting, DX and such attend break-away events to change the complexion of the main Hamvention?

    Will vendors follow in the break-away?

    While the massive effort to do the Hamvention by a club must be applauded, will the failures of that sort of casual system become too great to continue a volunteer leadership led Hamvention?

    Will safety & security concerns affect the Hamvention, perhaps forcing a change in venue?

    On a personal level, will each of us accept the squalor of the Hara, the “Dayton Decline” in poor hotels, restaurants and amenities, the physical limitations of the site (forums in rooms too small, remote packing in the “pit” at Salem Mall) and all the compromises of Dayton as “worth overlooking” as we plan our next years?

    For many Dayton is about the people, but as vendors drop out (name the major ones that dropped or scaled back since 2007 – you’d be surprised!), the Flea market shrinks and their friends either give up Dayton or become SK, what will keep them coming?

    Can Dayton continue to appear so grungy to new hams, ham families and spouses?

    Again I ask your thoughts!



  28. I wonder how many vendors at Hamvention 2008 were saying, “I’ll try this one more year and see how it goes.” I’d be pleased to hear there are vendors who say it’s a profitable experience for them. I’m guessing they are few and far between, inside the arena and outside in the flea market. The bug guys do it for the dealer dinner on Thursday and to introduce new products. The little guys outside seem to do it for the parking place and to watch the people walking around.

    Does the Dayton club take comments from vendors? Wouldn’t that information be informative for us? Maybe the whole thing is wildly successful and we grumplers just don’t know it. What I do know is that I”m still trying to get over the cough I brought home from Hara Arena.

  29. David, K2DBK says:

    If Hamvention is like most annual conventions, vendors have an opportunity to sign up for space for the following year during the current convention. Normally, if the vendor had a good year, they’re pretty likely to sign up a year in advance (usually with some kind of discount). Given that, it would be interesting to know if they’ve have a drop in advance signups.

    One thing that I’ve picked up from all the comments is that not only is Hara apparently turning into a dump, but security in the area is a concern. I participate in ham radio activities (both on and off the air) because they are something that is enjoyable (aka FUN) to do. If I have to worry about whether my car or belongings will be where I left them when I return from a day at the show, that does put a serious damper on the “fun” part.

  30. w4kaz says:

    It sounds like some of the vendors did well.

    Quotes from W4PA’s journal (, re:Ten-Tec’s 2008 experience at Hamvention:

    “”…….we went into Dayton last weekend figuring it was going to be a loss leader for future sales because the economy is sliding sideways at the moment. Talk about wrong — we beat the all-time Dayton sales record by a substantial margin this weekend.””


    “”Almost every vendor I talked to had the same story — two of the major accessory manufacturers for contest stuff/audio devices also said they had the best Dayton ever.””

    I also know directly of one indoor vendor that also was happy with his results in 2008. I would expect the outdoor vendors had a more difficult time. The downslide of the quality of gear for sale by tail-gaters reduces the draw to the tent vendors.

    All anecdotal…..FWIW.

  31. k9zw says:

    I spoke with one indoor vendor who confirmed the same – those who came, came to spend money.

    Another said they had covered costs with Friday’s sales and Saturday was going great!

    Two new to Dayton indoor vendors with new products were less chipper about sales, and commented that many hams just walked by not even looking. Solid European products out in the EU for 3 to 4 years, so this wasn’t untried new stuff.

    Outside vendors I spoke with were less happy. Perhaps the “musical chairs” of the big Flea Market spot computer crash started it, but several said it was not a good selling Flea Market for them, but that they had found some items to buy themselves.

    Other established names, like Moseley Antennas, decided to give Dayton 2008 a complete miss, and a few who reserved indoor booths were no-shows.

    Did you notice the reduction in over number of booths and the areas curtained-off that had booths in 2007?



  32. KG2V says:

    Very Interesting thread
    I _ALMOST_ went to Dayton for the first time this year, but one of the big “ah, no” thing is the wife and kids

    I look, and I look at say, Hamcation down in Orlando. Gee, lots of hotels (Pick your level of luxury), Lots of places for the wife and kids to visit, from ‘the house of the mouse’ on down

    Airfares? Yeah, I hate to fly, and could, in theory drive to Dayton (many in my area do), but man the airfares to Orlando are fairly low, from almost anywhere in the country (again, hello house of the mouse)

    The problems with a Chicago, NY etc – All the convention centers are DEEPLY Union shops. I know commercial shows that have decided to skip those cities due to the extreme costs of putting on a show there

    A freind who goes to both Dayton and Hamcation says “Dayton is slowly dieing, Hamcation is growing, it’s merely a matter of time before the vendors and/or visitors decide ‘Hamcation is the better deal’

    73 DE KG2V

  33. k9zw says:

    The Hamcation webpage is at

    Specially for Families this has a lot of extra attraction.

    The Vendor List has shown significant growth



  34. […] the sleeze” and “Salem the abandoned” has been covered in my Dayton Hamvention 2008 Follow-Up Report No. 21 – Dayton the Unwashed as the state of affairs of the Hara and the Salem remote parking have continued to […]

  35. @w4kaz – I’ll go out and say that sales were up due to the economic stimulus checks arriving weeks before Dayton. We have hams in our area who couldn’t afford the 5 gallons of gas to chase a group of cyclists during a bike event last month, now keying up with new D710’s and AVMAP setups.

    Next year I doubt the hamvention will benefit from that luxury..

    -Corey KB9JHU

  36. Bob, KG6AF says:

    Instead of placing the burden of running a national convention on a local ham club, why doesn’t the ARRL run the convention itself? And, given increasing travel costs, why not rotate through five or six locations that cover the whole country? Wouldn’t that give all hams a fair chance of attending without breaking the bank?

  37. Dave N4KZ says:

    Dayton 2008 — my 32nd Hamvention in a row — was one of my least enjoyable. Much of that was the fact the luster has worn off after attending so many times but the foul smells and excessive heat inside Hara Arena didn’t help. In fact, when I checked out of the motel this time, I didn’t make reservations for next year — a first for me. (I have since relented and made reservations for ’09 but for only one night.)

    Hara is privately owned and the owners have obviously decided to let the walls fall in before spending more money on renovating an aging facility whose value is now in the property it sits on and not the venue itself. Too bad. The facility has turned into a major embarrassment.

    On the other hand, someone many posts above suggested letting other cities bid on hosting Hamvention. How does that work? You think the founding organization, DARA, is suddenly going to hand over the show it’s been running for 50 years to someone else? It won’t happen. It’s their creation and except for a couple of years where they tried a professional staff to run the convention amid less than great results, they do a good job for volunteers. If the show were held elsewhere and run by a professional staff, the admission price wouldn’t be in the $20 range. I can guarantee that.

    It would be great to see the Hamvention moved elsewhere. But just how realistic that might be is the great unknown question? Indianapolis and Louisville both have great facilities that are modern, much larger than Hara with tons of on-site parking. And both are in spots that are within a day’s drive for 2/3 of the nation’s population.

    In my day job, among many duties, I organize and run two small conventions annually attended by 600-800 people each. I do most of the work myself and it takes months of planning. I cannot imagine running a show the size of Hamvention even though there are many of them and only one of me.

    DARA volunteers may not be perfect in organizing and running the convention but they have accumulated many years of experience that many clubs simply could not duplicate if Hamvention was suddenly moved to their city.

    The answer? Beats me. A couple of hams in Dayton have told me there are other facilities available at the University of Dayton and Wright State University that could host the convention. I have no idea if that is true or not but I think DARA needs to make its future site intentions known publicly soon, very soon before too many people decide not to return.

  38. N0LID says:

    I’ve been going to Dayton for almost 20 years and have only missed one. The main factor in going is seeing people I only get to see once a year. I usually get a flea space as a place to meet and have a few beverages available.
    I keep my cost low – yep I’m a cheap ham – in using Priceline/Hotwire for the hotel ($52/night at the Miamisburg HI) and I was able to fly from Minneapolis to Columbus for $139 before the airfares went crazy. With a rental car and 3 other people splitting the hotel cost I was out maybe $350. I noticed the crowds were down quite a bit this year but with gas prices the way they are it’s understandable.
    Hara has always been a dump and it’s getting worse. I would pay a few bucks more for in ticket/flea market prices if the venue would change but listening to the crowd $25 was almost too much for some of the attendees.
    As soon as I can I’m booking my room for 2009 since the prices always seem to go up as the event gets closer. We stay in Miamisburg because it’s safe, clean, plenty of places for food and beverages and it’s only a 15-20 drive the Hara.

  39. Wilson says:

    I work at KOA and it is NOT a $10 visitor fee. It is $5. That price gives you access to everything our park has to offer. I think staying at KOA is a deal considering the fact that we have a bus shuttle there and back every day and we also had sandwiches ready to buy for you folks.

  40. k9zw says:

    I agree with Wilson that the KOA was great. Quite liked my visit. The $10 was for two of us as mentioned, $5/each. The KOA site was tidy, clean and very nice. I would say it was of the quality that I’d be proud to own such a place! Too bad the Hara and much of Dayton do not share the pride the KOA complex shows!



  41. myles n2ehg says:

    i always loved technical stuff, suppose that got me into ham radio, it was ,is always more to me, than just a hobby. after i first got licensed, and could make friends w/a bunch of hams some local some not, it wasn’t long before i realized that 9 out of 10 hams i spoke to raved about dayton insisting i should go , case it’s great and i’d love it also another reason, …

    i started going in the 80’s and soon as i left i couldn’t wait till next year all the problems mentioned here are fixable thou bad as they may be

    as much as i love ham radio technology or for the tech, etc, one thing that really impressed me was that hams all over the world always seemed to be like my best friend the way i was treated that is, despite the reality that i might be a stranger
    people today are talking about how things like ebay, internet etc etc has helped make ham radio less popular i’d say yeah but prob the most significant is what almost everyone here kinda talked about … the interactions of the people

    My first time at dayton, which was 1980’s struck me as a typical sporting arena kinda shabby as in not fancy but seemed all the tiolets worked they tried to clean it , everyone tried the large ammount of people told you bathrooms were going to be overloaded i guess noone liked it then but it was sorta overlooked as we treated it like a camping trip and expected it to be a bit rough. but the town it’s people were great i always felt like a hero around there , i parked early so i was near the enterence by 10 it was packed, cars far as i could see, crime? people used to buy radios and just leave them in the unmanned parking lot on top of there cars i am from nyc so that was a strange sight for me …

    the even itself was like a dream come true to me, being sourrounded but tons and tons of cool ‘stuff’ my only complangt to HARA was that it was only 3 days n only 1x a year!!

    I wish i had the skills to properly express how great dayton was, the local hams would always ride or fly in mass and convoy style i always booked my hotel as i was leaving and i ALWAYS went EVERY year after year i went with a bunch of friends and when i got there felt like i had 100s more

    I wasn’t able to go back since my last trip mid 90’s. after around 2000 i started hearing how people described it, as i’d be dissapointed if i went, from what i read here it sure seems alot different but perhaps if i put blinders on and just looked at the gear i’d be happy and glad to support the event with enough dollars they can make alot of the changes people here comment . but as the numbers decline they lose their clout
    still soon as i can go no matter what i’ll go if just to show support

    can HARA change the town if the unf reality is that the arena crumbles or isn’t maintained by it’s owners ? maybe but i dunno how much can HARA get hotels to clean up? or alter crime rates? thats a tough one, not saying anyone was acusing them . could they work with or sponcer a simular event someplace else it’s possible

    In my mind the dayton hamfest will always be at dayton and the hara arena- been there since a kid to well after college it was always larger than life

    hopfully it can be fixed but if not finding another place to meet all the paramaiters as noted here would b e a bit of a challenge but possible perhaps it will even become the new defacto standard even better than dayton

    it’s my belief that having an event like dayton hamvention is very important to keeping the hobby alive and fun

    i can only hope it gets better it can , if i can help i will


  42. […] by a post on K9ZW’s blog , He is having a discussion about the future of Dayton […]

  43. John W2XAB says:

    I have been going to the HAMVENTION since the early 1970’s, missing only about 5 years. I go to the Hamvention to get together with friends from all over the country in an informal setting, attend a few forums, spend a few dollars on toys, and sometimes see some of the tourist stops (AF Museum, VOA, Wright Bros., etc.).

    Dayton is crumbling, HARA Arena will someday fall to the ground because of lack of upkeep…. but it is a much better event than most of the ARRL National Conventions except for the one they held at the Hamventions. As for the lack of XYL activities, who wants them there anyways!

  44. J Gerard says:

    I agree with many of the comments. I have only been licensed since 94 and have been to Dayton a number of times. I do not plan on going back in the near future. Compared to other professional trade shows I attend Dayton is not very comfortable. It would be very improbable from an economic standpoint for anyone to deliver a lower cost event of this size. Dayton and Hara is a cheap venue, labor is volunteer and physically the population center of the US is still somewhere in the Indiana/Ohio corridor, which allows for drive ins. In order to reengineer this event some of the following needs to happen:
    *ARRL should be the sponsor and make this a national event
    * ARRL needs to rally and develop a large cadre of volunteers to be trained and staff this event along with professional staffing. I don’t think the willingness to volunteer is a feature of only the Dayton area – I believe that hams can rally to pull this together in any location.
    *DARA needs to capitulate the end of the life-cycle of this current event. Back in the golden age of Ham Radio in the 50’s -60’s I’m sure Dayton worked, but now its sort of a compromise. DARA should respectfully bow out and act in an advisory role. Hamvention as it is currently engineered is the GM of ham shows.
    * A new location with a more inviting center and feel should be priced. This may not be an easy task, but from my perspective, I believe it can be done.
    * Consideration for spouses and childrens events should be included in any new site search.
    *Programming needs to be enhanced overall in a new program. Including more inviting breakout session rooms.
    *There should be an opening general session that would set a tone, position a forward looking speaker and create a general sense of community for the ham population attending. Sponsors would line up to support a marquee addition to this event.
    * Incentives should be offered to the QRP and Contest U groups (as well as other groups who hold events concurrently) to fold their events into a revitalized ARRL sponsored event. The fact that these groups plan their events off-site take away from the sense that this is a unified event.

    We all have to remember that a lot of the experience is about old friends getting together, so a shift in venue and city may not be in the cards. That said ham radio deserves better than Dayton and Hara even if that means a smaller show. . .it is getting smaller every year anyway.

  45. Jon Hamlet says:

    I’ve been attending the Dayton Hamvention since the late 60’s, even stopping by while living in Europe for 10 years. I would try and coordinate a visit to Dayton with a business trip. While living in Kentucky, I often took a van of kids up to Dayton, usually from our scout troop, and watched many of those kids become hams. I have watched the descent of the event into a shabby, non-event, and did not choose to go this year due to other commitments. But I go to see old friends and spend most of the time at the Crowne Plaza. The event should be moved. Hara Arena is a disgrace. I compare the Hamvention with the Orlando Hamcation, and see the rise of the Orlando event due to cheap and plentiful air, lodging, and usually excellent weather at a time the northern types are still shivering. Ditto the Texas event. Seems to me if just a couple of the main forums moved to Orlando or Texas, they would become the new “Hamvention” for the 21st century.

    I must disagree with those who lament the passing of Ham radio into the dustbin of history. I’ve licensed 18 new hams since December in our local high school and I have to tell you that they are as enchanted with ham radio as I was as a teenager. Our focus is on SAT communications and the digital modes, but HF still has that magic allure. I have eight of them scheduled for the General class next month, including one teacher.

    If we all rant on about the good old days, we are missing the best days that are yet to come. Saying that, I would be embarrassed to take my guys to Dayton and represent it as the “main” ham radio conventioin in America. I think a lot of this has to do with the graying of our hobby, and the competing interests of the net, cell phones, and the digital modes that require no license or formal study.

    Believe me, our kids are still able to be captivated by ham radio. Just present it another wireless mode with unlimited possibilities!

    My two cents, and BTW, I like your call K9ZW.

    Jon Hamlet, W4ZW
    Casey Key Island, FL but writing from Boston

  46. John Jeffers VE3GYV says:

    Sorry. Too far. Too expensive. Too Hard to get to.

    It’s Cheaper to go to Las Vegas, New York, Toronto, Atlanta (an airport Hub) seems to be mandatory.

    At least in Toronto I wouldn’t have to worry about being mugged. And I have been to Dayton and really don’t like the Ambiance!

  47. k9zw says:

    Any other suggestions on locations?

    BTW I cannot recommend Toronto after several interrogations by Customs Canada while in transit from Europe or vacationing in Toronto. Let us say they were not very representative of the better sort of Canadian.

    When I took my sons to see Toronto’s features they went nuts because my wife had taken the opportunity to visit a sick elderly relative in England. “Was I kidnapping my own children?” was their repeated nonsense.

    Arriving from Holland with a car part in my luggage, even though I was manifested through to the Chicago somehow made me a suspect smuggler in the eyes of Custom’s Canada, and lead to a missed flight while they messed with me.

    Meeting my car when shipped from Amsterdam under customs bond in Toronto was a bad idea as well, as I got to spend a half day being accused of being in Canada to illegally work.

    You’ll hear the same story from enough Americans to make it a worry.

    Land crossing have generally been easier and less hassle, but still with some special Canadian officialdom at mischief on several occasions.



  48. John K3MD says:

    Agree. Move to Cincinnati or Cleveland? Attendance way down… economy or setting? Flea market not very good… most likely due to EBay. No parking for Contest dinner… other events were being held at Convention center.

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