The Helena, Alabama Hamfest, and something you don’t hear every day.

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.

Buck Creek
Buck Creek
The Union Pacific roaring by.

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.

Heathkit Apache TX-1
Heathkit Apache TX-1
Hickok 533A Dynamic Mutual Conductance Tube Tester
So much to see — where to begin?

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!

Geno Newman, N4GNO, and Call To Post.
Geno Newman, N4GNO, and Call To Post.

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.

KV4LQ operates KM4AYU, The Young Hams Of Central Alabama Amateur Radio Club station

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!

7 thoughts on “The Helena, Alabama Hamfest, and something you don’t hear every day.”

  1. Bill,

    Great to see you and your wife at Helena last Saturday.

    So glad you enjoyed our Hamfest. Your kind words in the article are greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again and take care!

    Jim. W4 XWA

  2. It was indeed a great HamFest. I am suggesting that next year a troop of Boy Scouts, in uniform, hold Old Glory out in front of the stage while the the other Scouts salute the Flag while Call to Post is being played. A huge majority of the HamFest attendees crossed their heart or Saluted the Flag when the bugle was played. Indeed, very cool. Bob, KC4AF

  3. Bill,
    Many thanks for the excellent write up.
    We really enjoyed seeing every one and
    meeting a bunch of hams for the first time.
    fantastic hamfest.
    Jim ki4bre

  4. Nice article Bill !! I am sorry that I missed the Helena hamfest this year. Sherry and I were in Destin, Fla. at Henderson Beach State Park. I have always enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere and beautiful vunue of the Helena ‘fest. That its only 3 miles from my home is nice too ! I hope to catch you there next year.

    72, DE N4NR

  5. Enjoyed meeting some great people in 2014 at the Helena ham fest, . A bit hot even for October! Sort of surprised that there are any more photographs than this however. So… who’s got all the pictures ?

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