Editorial: How To Sound Intelligent when Complaining about Hamvention

Hamvention 2015 officially ended this past Sunday at 1:00 PM EDT. (watch my blog for a hamfest review in a few days).  In my opinion, it was a great show.  There were only seven to nine (depending on who you ask) open vendor booths inside, the outdoor vendors and attendees looked to be about on par with last year.  There was no poop volcano, the stands didn’t collapse during the closing ceremonies, ceiling tiles didn’t fall on people (although some had fallen in the year since Hamvention 2014, so that was a distinct possibility). There was, of course, the unfortunate audio problems during the prize draw (the fault of which may have either been the DARA microphone/cable or the Hara Arena sound infrastructure.  I’d guess the latter.)  There were reports of some thefts from the flea market vendors but that happens every year.  Most aggravating were the reports of cars getting broken into that were parked in the big yard at the private residence across Basore Rd.  Anyway, come Sunday evening, the flood of complaints began (as they do every year) on the Hamvention Facebook page, followed by the rash of half-assed suggestions.  So I, your humble host, posted “AD8BC’s guide to successful and intelligent Hamvention complaining.”  Thought it should be posted here for easy reference:

Here we go. For every few posts or comments that pop up about how much fun we had this past weekend, we get a complainer. And that’s fine-there are some (many) legitimate complaints. It’s easy to criticize. It’s fun, too! What’s harder is to actually make suggestions. Because to make an intelligent and well thought out suggestion, you have to open your mind to more than just your own point of view—you need to take into account things that you may have no knowledge or experience in. If you don’t complain intelligently, you are just bitching and moaning. For example, if I write a book review on Amazon, if I don’t like it I will make every attempt to explain why it was a piece of crap, keeping in mind the fact that I personally have never written a book, and if I tried to, it would likely be a piece of crap as well. Same thing with Hamvention. I have never been on a committee to run a large convention, therefore I am not an expert in it. So if I want to make a suggestion, I must learn all I can about the subject and then and only then can I make an intelligent suggestion.So, I’ve decided to put together AD8BC’s guide to successful and intelligent Hamvention complaining.
1) Make sure you place the blame properly. All complaints about the Hara Arena physical plant (plumbing, blacktop, ceiling tiles, dripping water, or poop volcanoes) should be directed towards the Hara Arena. All other complaints should be directed towards the Dayton Amateur Radio Association, or DARA. Just because there is one letter different between Hara and DARA doesn’t mean that they are one and the same (also note the fact that Hara is a name and DARA is an acronym). Now, the sound system problem on Sunday may be a Hara or DARA problem, depending on if the microphones and cables were provided by the Hara Arena or DARA, or where the fault actually occurred. But most Hamvention issues can easily be split between DARA or Hara.
2) DARA will not buy the Hara Arena and re-do the whole thing. DARA is a radio club. It’s a big radio club, but it’s a radio club. They don’t have the money to buy the Arena and they probably aren’t interested in running an entertainment and event venue all year.
3) DARA is a group of volunteers. DARA is a radio club. DARA is a charity. Sure, they may have more members than your club, more net worth than your club, more vehicles than your club, and a bigger clubhouse than your club. They have earned every penny of it. I once got into a heated discussion over the term “Non Profit Organization.” That doesn’t mean your organization can’t make money, own real estate, or even have employees. It simply means that there are no owners and nobody takes home any of the profit. Stop complaining that they have a vehicle worth a quarter of a million dollars. Stop complaining about their building and towers. They have earned it many times over. Do you want your club to make DARA money? It’s simple. See step 4 below.
4) DARA is in Dayton. Which means Hamvention is in Dayton, and in the future will either be in Dayton or somewhere reasonably close to Dayton. The costs of transporting all of their club volunteers hundreds or thousands of miles would be prohibitive. Keep this in mind when you suggest that they move to some other place in the country. If you want a Hamvention-level convention in your backyard, it is simple. Get a few hundred volunteers, rent out a big building that has enough room for your indoor vendors and outdoor flea market, somewhere close to an abandoned mall where you can park everybody since your flea market will consume all of the parking, and you’re in business! It would be better if you could find a place that your club could afford based on ticket prices of about $20 for a three day weekend, plus affordable vendor and flea market space. It’s easy! Go ahead, do it! I’ll come and see it!
5) “Hara is a dump.” You don’t need to be an expert in owning and running a convention center to make that statement. Anybody who has been to Hamvention or another Hara event will agree that that three word statement is correct. It’s somewhat of an international embarrassment, sure, but it’s the best that DARA has right now. Hamvention has grown into the Hara Arena over the past 52 years. It’s old and crappy and Hara has not been properly maintained. But it’s home. I go to enjoy ham radio and see my friends, not to study architecture. Think – seriously, think—about the effort that would be required to move the convention:
a. Find a new home. This home would require enough indoor and outdoor space (or a ton of extra indoor space to move the flea market inside – this would be nice!). Also, enough available parking would be needed nearby. Or, we could just forgo the flea market.
b. If we get rid of the flea market, figure out the monetary losses that that would occur from the lack of flea market space rental.
c. Unless it’s a fairground, the new home would probably cost two to three times what the Hara charges. So we would need to adjust ticket prices and booth rental and flea market prices so that DARA can still have a net profit. If they do pick a fairground, determine if Kenwood and Yaesu would bring their trade-show quality displays and set them up in a horse barn.
d. Project how many vendors would still come now that the prices have increased.
e. Project how many attendees would come now that ticket prices have gone up.
f. Redesign the flea market layout and indoor vendor layout to match the new location. Listen as vendors complain about how much they hate their new locations.
g. Try to determine if attendance will go up or down – people who have been “boycotting” the Hamvention over the quality of the Hara Arena may decide to finally come back. However, “traditionalists” who hate change may decide not to come.
h. Most of all, understand that NO MATTER WHAT CHANGES, SOME IDIOT WILL BITCH AND MOAN ABOUT IT. Many hams complain just to hear themselves complain.

Let there be no doubt – I am certain that the Hamvention committee understands that the Hara Arena may go away. Or it may simply fall down. I have got to believe that if they are smart enough to pull this thing off every year, they are smart enough to understand that they simply MUST be prepared for change. But at this point, it’s probably a smarter, more economical move to just stay put. Why? Because people still keep coming, and it’s still profitable. If you want to “boycott” than fine, boycott the damn thing. Someone will fill your place. Because, for all the crap that has happened over the years, nobody has had a chunk of concrete fall on them. The CDC has not announced that the Hara Arena is ground zero for a cholera outbreak. And, most of all, I still manage to have fun every year.

So if you want to complain, fine. Complain intelligently. If you complain intelligently, you will sound smarter. And we can all use that! If you simply want to bitch and moan, go over to the Hamsexy group!

Published from DFW, Texas


  • While I appreciate the challenges involved in finding another venue for Hamvention, I really do think that DARA should be more aggressive in looking for one. There are two main reasons for this:

    1. I have heard from many hams who say that they just won’t go to Dayton because Hara is such a poor venue. I think DARA is missing out on an opportunity to attract more than the die hards like you and me that would probably attend no matter where it was held.

    2. What does it say about amateur radio that its premiere event is held in a place like Hara? I think it’s incredibly bad PR for ham radio.

    Like I said, I realize that DARA is doing all this on a volunteer basis, and as such they can only do so much, but with events like HamCation and other big events getting more popular around the country, they need to do something to keep the crowds coming to Dayton.

    • I agree Dan. My post was aimed more at those that just shout out half-assed suggestions like “we need a better place.” Of course they do. When someone comes up with a place that meets their needs, I’ll listen. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *