Since 1989, I have been to many, if not most, of the annual hamfests in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Last year I was a bit disappointed in how much it had shrunk and I went on an editorial rant on how I would change things. Well, they did make a few changes that I had mentioned, and I think it was a bit better. Since they don’t seem to announce attendance, I don’t have any firm numbers. It’s still sad that in our current environment of successful and growing convention-style hamfests that Fort Wayne isn’t enjoying the level of success and growth that the Texas Ham-Com, Orlando Hamcation, or California’s Pacificon are seeing, given the many positive things going for Fort Wayne. In fact, so that I don’t come off as too negative, I’m going to quote myself from last year’s post and list the many positive things about the Fort Wayne Hamfest:
…let’s detail the many positive things that the Fort Wayne Hamfest has going for it:
- Location — it is within driving distance from many areas of the Midwest and Great Lakes. Microsoft Streets and Trips lists the following cities within a three-and-a-half hour drive of the Coliseum: Chicago, South Bend, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Flint, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, and Indianapolis. Another thirty minutes of drive time extends out to Milwaukee, Youngstown, Traverse City, Louisville and Lexington. And even here we’re almost reaching Pittsburgh, Peoria, and Springfield IL. Fort Wayne may be your standard “boring” Indiana town (I grew up in South Bend so I’m allowed to say that) but it’s not a bad place to visit. There are plenty of hotels there as well for those who don’t want to make it a day trip.
- Venue — the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum is a beautiful place with wide open exhibit halls and plenty of parking.
- Time of year — The Fort Wayne Hamfest is held almost exactly six months before the Dayton Hamvention. Which means it’s held almost exactly six months after the previous Dayton Hamvention. Which means right about the time that you’re hankering for a nice large hamfest, it’s mid-November and time for Fort Wayne.
The downside to mid-November is the weather. This (and the layout of the Coliseum, probably) precludes outdoor tailgate sales and may affect participation due to the errant early winter storm.
- Admission costs — Admission to the Fort Wayne Hamfest is only $5 for both days. It’s $4 for Sunday only but from what I saw this year on Sunday, very few people came. Some of the vendors packed up and left Saturday afternoon. The Hamfest used to have extended Sunday hours of 9 AM through 3 PM but this year it ended at noon.
The Coliseum charges for parking as well — it’s $5 per car per day with no in-and-out privileges. Come as a group and it’s not that bad.
- Vendor costs — Vendors can rent a table for as little as $25. Premium tables are $50 and electrical hookups are $30. It doesn’t cost much to set up a place to sell stuff.
There were two positive changes from last year. The first was that the Sunday hours were extended to 2:00 PM. It used to run until 3:00 but last year, when it ended at noon, Sunday was a waste. Read more