High tech in the outdoors: Field Day comes to town!

Chuck Catledge (Call sign AE4CW) and Bill Cobb (K4YJJ) make contact with other “Ham” operators across the country during Field Day in 2015.
Chuck Catledge (Call sign AE4CW) and Bill Cobb (K4YJJ) make contact with other “Ham” operators across the country during Field Day in 2015.


Looking for something totally different to do in the great out-of doors this weekend? Then keep your ears open for the sound of high-speed beeps and words like “CQ Field Day...CQ Field Day…” – especially if you happen to be in Groveland Community Park.

Cryptic sounds and mysterious words are not what you usually associate with a day in the outside world. But that’s what you’ll hear starting at 2 p.m. this Saturday, June 24, as amateur radio operators (“hams”) from the North Fulton Amateur Radio League gather at Groveland Community Park (formerly Waller Park) for 24 hours of high-tech outdoor fun.

The occasion? An exciting event known as Field Day.

The NFARL website, nfarl.org, defines Field Day as “an emergency preparedness exercise” and “a public relations demonstration.”

Ian Kahn, NFARL’s field day chairman, explained it like this:

“Field Day is kind of like amateur radio’s open house,” he said. “It’s a public demonstration of what our capabilities are and of what we as ham radio operators bring to the table during an emergency or other crisis when traditional means of communication might not be available.”

The annual Field Day event underscores ham radio’s traditionally strong emphasis on public service, Kahn saind.

“One of the reasons for ham radio, as spelled out in the Federal Communication Commission’s regulations, is to provide a volunteer core of trained radio operators who can assist in times of emergency,” he said, adding that the purpose of Field Day is to challenge hams to set up fully operational radio stations under non-optimal conditions – and then use those stations on the air for effective communication.

“We’re definitely not sitting at home in the air conditioning,” Kahn said.

But then that’s part of the fun!

What actually happens during Field Day? On one level, it’s a sort of contest to see who can communicate with the most people under “field” conditions using non-traditional power sources such as generators or solar-charged batteries. But on another level it’s much more serious – a chance to practice emergency communications skills.

During NFARL’s Field Day event, visitors are welcome (encouraged, in fact) to drop by and discover what it’s all about.

What will you see at the Field Day site? This year’s operation will give you a look at a variety of different radio technologies, including voice and high-tech digital modes. Some operators will even make contacts using orbiting satellites as relay stations. You’ll also see skilled “CW” operators who will be making contacts using the dots and dashes (“dits” and “dahs” in ham radio speak) of Morse Code.

A special highlight of NFARL’s Field Day 2017 extravaganza will be a “Get on the Air” station. This particular station will be set up and operational to give anyone (even you!) a chance to get on the air and make some Field Day contacts via ham radio – no license required!

“We encourage all comers,” Ian said, again noting that no license is necessary to make a contact using the GOTA station. A skilled mentor will be right there at your shoulder to help you get the hang of it – and if you make at least 20 contacts, you’ll receive a special commemorative pin right on the spot. The GOTA station is particular fun for young people, so bring your kids (there’s no age limit). You will have a blast.

Other highlights include an all-day Boy Scout Radio Merit Badge workshop, a Saturday afternoon introductory “CW” (Morse Code) class, and the opportunity to see a mobile emergency communications center. You can also get a look at some “go kits,” which Ian describes as complete emergency radio stations in a grab-and-go format, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The Field Day festivities begin at 2 p.m. Saturday and continues till 2 p.m. Sunday at Groveland Community Park. The park is located off Oxbo Road between Roswell Road and Grimes Bridge Road. The address is 160 Dobbs Drive, Roswell.

For more information on the North Fulton Amateur Radio League and on how you too might become involved in ham radio, visit NFARL.org.

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