A convention where amateur radio enthusiasts get together is known as a Hamfest. It is often a combination of a trade show, flea-market, lectures, workshops, club events, and various social activities. Some Hamfests offer amateur radio license examinations.
The larger Hamfests are attractive for major amateur radio equipment developers and vendors who often use them to introduce new products. Examples of major Hamfests were you have a good chance of seeing new products for the first time are Dayton Hamvention in Ohio, the HAM RADIO event in Friedrichshafen, Germany, the International DX Convention in Visalia, California, and the Central Coast Amateur Radio Club Field Day near Sydney, Australia.
Hamfests are often annual or semiannual one-day or weekend events. The earliest known example of the term Hamfest is from 1924, when it was used in the United States.
Buying a selling equipment is often an important part of the Hamfest. There is often a tradeshow area where new – and sometimes innovative – equipment will be sold or showcased, and also a flea-market area where second-hand equipment change hands among the enthusiasts.
At larger Hamfest events, it is not uncommon to find everything from the latest high-tech stuff to used, refurbished and even antique equipment. It is possible for the novice to pick up basic necessities without breaking the bank, while the more seasoned ham might find those accessories and spare parts that are no longer available from the manufacturer, and the experienced collector stumbles over a rare find or two. Sometimes, the Hamfest becomes an affordable second-hand market for high-end goods that were originally manufactured for commercial or public users.
Junk boxes are a common feature, filled with scraps, remnants and thingamajigs related to ham radio. As hams wish to go home with less junk than they brought, you typically get a great price if you offer to buy the whole box instead of picking out one or two special items.
Here are just a few examples of Hamfests around the world.
Dayton Hamvention – which takes place in Dayton, Ohio, USA – is one of the world´s largest Hamfests. Nowadays, it is an annual event, which takes place in May each year. In 2019, the event was three days long and drew over 32,000 paid attendees. (The 2020 and 2021 events were cancelled due to Covid19.)
Examples of popular elements of the Dayton Hamvention are the forums and classes, and radio license exams are offered for both beginners and for current license holders who wish to upgrade their permissions. There is a flea market and boots for “homebrewers”, and several major amateur equipment manufacturers demonstrate their new products at the event.
The local ham community in Ohio usually put on numerous extra events in nearby locations during the Hamfest period, including night owl events that start when the official Hamfest has closed for the night.
The first Hamvention occured in March 22, 1952, at the Biltmore Hotel in Dayton. Later, it moved to The Hara Arena in Trotwood and stayed there from 1964 to 2016 when the arena closed down. Since 2017, the Dayton Hamvention has been housed by the Greene County Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Xenia, Ohio – which is not in Dayton, but close to Dayton.
Two of the largest Hamfests in Canada are HAM-EX and the YRARC Hamfest, which attracts over a thousand visitors each. HAM-EX is arranged by the Peel Amateur Radio Club (PeelARC) and the Mississauga Amateur Radio Club (MARC) one a year at the Brampton Fall Fairgrounds, north of Brampton, Ontario. The York Region Amateur Radio Club (YRARC) hold their Hamfest on the first Saturday of November each year, at the Newmarket Community Centre in Newmarket, Ontario.
The largest and most well-established Hamfest in Europe is the International Exhibition for Radio Amateurs, also known as HAM RADIO, in Friedrichshafen, Germany. In 2015, it attracted over 17,000 atendees. The inaugural event took place in 1976.
Examples of organisations that arranges Hamfests in Great Britian are the Stockport Radio Society, the Radio Society of Great Britain, and the National Hamfest.
Two examples of notable hamfests in Australia is the one arranged annually by the Northern Corridor Radio Group in Western Australia, and the Central Coast Amateur Radio Club Field Day held near Sydney.
Japan is one of the most important developers and producers of commercially available amateur radio equipment, and the annual HARL Ham Fair in Tokyo attracts a lot of both domestic and foreign visitors. The HARL Ham Fair is arranged the Japan Amateur Radio League, Inc (JARL).
Hamfest India is an annual hamfest arranged since the early 1990s. The location and venue change every year. Examples of previous locations from the most recent years (before the break necessitated by Covid19) are Kanyakumari in 2019, Bangalore in 2018, Kolkata in 2017, Mount abu in 2016, and Rajot in 2015.