p6240202 editThe ARRL’s Field Day is a lot of things.  The ARRL defines it as  Ham Radio’s Open House and  “a picnic, a campout, practice for emergencies, an informal contest and most of all FUN”.    In fact Field Day can be so many things that it is impossible to do them all well.     

The last several years, Ak-Sar-Ben Amateur Radio Club has been at Standing Bear Lake and Douglas County’s Crime Lab grounds.  Both are great locations with trees, hardware stores and 24 hour supermarkets nearby, and it was easy to fall into a pattern on setups, and the attendance by club members dropped.  

Looking to take Ham Radio to the public and making a it a challenge again, the Field Day Chair reached out to the volunteers at Freedom Park.    From the beginning the team knew there would be issues, not the least of which was the limited access to the park since the 2011 flood.     However after a late winter trip to the park that included most of shack captains, it was a unanimous decision to go to Freedom Park.    The City of Omaha Parks Department has always been agreeable to the AARC being able to overnight in city parks for field day, and they agreed again, provided that a Freedom Park Volunteer would be on site after hours.   Park volunteer and AARC club member Peter KE7RDM readily agreed.

The shack captains began their planning.  Where would they operate from?  With the park being open for visitors during a lot of the set up time on Saturday Morning and during the first two hours of the operating time,  consideration to not create trip hazards or blocking ship passageways.      After several email exchanges and another meeting at the park, a plan was set.  

The final issue was access to the park after closing time.   The operators and park volunteers understood that 3:00 pm was too early to lock the gates to the hams who wanted to come to Field Day.   The K0USA repeater would be monitored at the park, anyone who came after hours.  They  would be directed to a simplex frequency where they  would be given instructions on how to unlock the gate.   Those still in the park and wanting to leave would be given the secret before driving to the gate.   Once the gates were secured for the night - which was just after sunset, you were either in or you were out.    This would help keep the police from wondering who was wandering up and down a closed road.  

diningSaturday the Field Day crew gathered at the gate to get in before opening time for the park and caravanned in.   The group fanned out and set about getting setup and ready to operate.   Even with the public arriving and wandering around the ship and grounds the shacks were setup and ready to go before the activity start time of 1:00 pm.   And at that time K0USA was on the air as 6A Nebraska.   

About 25 club members were spotted in addition to the Field Day operators, and the park volunteers estimate 150 to 200 visitors passed through the park between 10:00 and 3:00.  Many stopped to visit with the operators who took time to explain what we were doing.    Once the park closed however the operators had time to get serious on the radio while dinner was been created which involved part of the meal being cooked in the ship’s ovens.     The crew took time away from the air waves to have dinner in the ships galley.     

The weather was perfect and the crew was not plagued by insects, that is probably a Field Day first.   A  group gathered on deck and enjoyed the view of Omaha’s skyline to the west and watched as boats passed by on the river.  There were a few moments of excitement when the Douglas County Sheriff’s river patrol approached the shore and shined a spot light along the shore.   When the field day ops did not all scurry like rats, the sheriff’s boat headed back down river.

After the excitement of the visit by a served agency, the operators  decided to turn in for the night. Some slept on cots and air mattress in the gazebo, and on deck but most opted for the officers’ quarters  inside the ship.    With the ventilation blowers on, most of them were quite cool and reported they slept well.  

In the morning the smell of coffee wafted through the passageways.   Once again the ship’s galley was put into use and the crew enjoyed a breakfast of biscuits and gravy before heading back to be on the air when the bands woke up. 

About noon the tear down helpers started arriving.   Again, a good turn out of helpers and the stations were all packed up and headed home in record time.

At this time, the score looks like this:

Total Contacts by Band and Mode:

 Band       CW   Power     Dig   Power   Phone   Power   Total       %

 ----       --   -----   -----   -----   -----   -----   -----     ---

   80        0     150       0     150     174     150     174      13

   40        0     150      27     150     549     150     576      44

   20        5     150      31     150     288     150     324      25

   15       10     150      46     150      21     150      77       6

   10        0     150       0     150      14     150      14       1

    6        0     150       0     150     132     150     132      10

 GOTA        0     150       0     150       0     150       0       0

            --   -----   -----   -----   -----   -----   -----     ---

 Total      15             104           1,178           1,297     100

 

With bonus points the final score should be 2832

A job well done for the Field Day group!   And a big thanks to the Freedom Park Volunteers for being such awesome hosts.     In fact, the operators were having so much fun, that one of the volunteers decided to go get his license.   

More volunteers to  help setup and tear down, more public foot traffic, built in sleeping accommodations and recruiting a new ham.  Well done Field Day Committee… Well Done!