This past weekend brought the fourth running of the Helena, Alabama Hamfest, held not far from the Birmingham metro area. It was my first opportunity to visit, and the abundant accolades I’d heard were understated.
The large outdoor event was held a midst glorious sunshine and mild temperatures in the heavily wooded Helena Amphitheater, located in the center of one of Alabama’s most picturesque little towns. With thundering train tracks to the east and west, and the bucolic Buck Creek flowing swiftly alongside, the venue was inviting. And come they did too, as a large gathering of vendors exhibited their flotsam and jetsam. It was boneyard heaven.
All the wonderful names from my childhood were there – Heathkit, Collins, Hammarlund, Johnson and more. And every vendor beamed with delight when asked about his beloved old gear.
“Used this when I was a Novice”, one remembered fondly, and “She still works like the day I built her” another shared with obvious pride.
Commerce was brisk, but mostly old friends gathered to share the love and camaraderie of their wonderful hobby.
And so an enjoyable morning and early afternoon was spent with my brothers in RF, relishing the wonderful Alabama Autumn and thankful to be a part of the world’s greatest hobby.
And there was something else that distinguished the Helena Hamfest from any other I’d ever attended.
Every time the Master of Ceremonies made an announcement from the Amphitheater stage, he made sure he had our attention. Preceding any announcement, Shelby County Amateur Radio Club President Eugene “Geno” Newman, N4GNO, brandished his bugle and lit into a rendition of Call To Post. I half expected to see a troop of Thoroughbreds and a tray of Mint Juleps each time those familiar notes echoed throughout the park. Very, very cool!
And the Helena Hamfest was radio active in the truest sense of the word as well. An Amateur Radio station was on the air, working the Straight Key Century Club Weekend Sprint event, and showcasing the vitality of our hobby. Manning a vintage J-38 hand key was 15 year-old Alabama Young Ham of the Year Daniel Smith, KV4LQ.
No, I didn’t win the Elecraft KX3 which was awarded that day, but I left enriched none-the-less. Old friendships rekindled, new acquaintances made, an incomparable Alabama Fall day, and Amateur Radio — It just doesn’t get any better than that!