Hamming up the radio waves: Amateur radio enthusiasts meet for annual contest in St. George

ST. GEORGE — Amateur shortwave operators gathered at Dixie Technical College over the weekend to participate in the annual “Field Day” contest in order to see which group could make the most contacts across North America over a 24-hour period.

At the 2021 amateur radio Field Day competition with members of the Dixie Amateur Radio Club, St. George, Utah, June 26, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Beginning at noon on Saturday and concluding at noon Sunday, members of the St. George-based Dixie Amateur Radio Club met in a room at Dixie Tech’s Emergency Response Training Center where a number of ham radio stations were manned. Each station was connected to antennas outside that the radio operators had erected prior to the official start of the competition.

“We are contacting stations across the United States and Canada,” said Ric Wayman, a past president of the local ham radio club and the supervisor of this year’s Field Day event.

Field Day was started in 1933 by the American Radio Relay League and garnered 169 participants at the time. Decades later, the annual event is estimated to involve up to 40,000 people across North America. The Dixie Amateur Radio Club has been involved since 1985.

“I was there,” Wayman said. “This is our 36th consecutive year.”

There is no major prize at the end of the contest beyond bragging rights for the next year, Wayman said, adding that a goal of the event is primarily to have fun and educate attendees on radio use, as some of them are newcomers.

One of the antennas used by the Dixie Amateur Radio Club during the 2021 amateur radio Field Day competition, St. George, Utah, June 26, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“We’re glad to share this hobby with anyone,” said Dave Merrill, the current president of the Dixie Amateur Radio Club. While the club has a membership of 120 people, he said there are many ham radio operators across the county.

During the contest, the radio club contacted 49 states and eight Canadian provinces. The only state missed was Louisiana. Additionally, contact was made with Australia and New Zealand along the way.

By the end of the competition, the club earned 2,146 points before any possible bonus points, Wayman said following the event’s conclusion. In the past, one group obtained over 300,000 points, he said, but that is largely due to their running some 30 radio stations and gaining a multitude of contacts. The local radio club ran three stations for this year’s contest.

The results of the contest will not be known until December, according to the American Radio Relay League’s website.

Being a ham radio operator is a lot of fun, Wayman said, adding that anyone can get into it, no matter their age or background.

At the 2021 amateur radio Field Day competition with members of the Dixie Amateur Radio Club, St. George, Utah, June 26, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

One of the club members present at Field Day on Saturday evening was 14-year-old Ryan Seegmiller. He and members of his family got into the hobby after buying a jeep that had a ham radio already installed in it.

“I like talking to people,” Seegmiller said.

The farthest contact he said he’s made over the radio so far was with another ham operator in Australia.

“You can do it for fun. You can do it when the world ends, like in emergencies,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun either way.”

Wayman said a motto of the ham radio club is: Amateur radio when all else fails.

In recent years there have been commercials on the radio recognizing the aid amateur radio operations can give during times of disaster.

The city of St. George also recognized the contribution ham radio operators made locally. Last week, Mayor Michele Randall read a proclamation declaring June 21-27 as “Amateur Radio Week.”

“We really appreciate Mayor Randall and what she’s done for amateur radio in the community,” Wayman said.

Local ham radio operators have aided the city with communication needs for over 20 year and routinely helped with annual events like the St. George Marathon, he said. The local club also aids the city and county in cases of disaster close to home, and maintains a presence in the Washington County Emergency Services office.

Ed. note: Ric Wayman is a weekend editor for St. George News.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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