Greene County is preparing for the world’s largest amateur radio convention this weekend as Hamvention makes its way to the county for the first time.
Hamvention is being held in Greene County after Hara Arena in Trotwood, where the event had been held for decades, closed last year.
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The economic impact of this event is projected to be about $14 million, in hotel stays, restaurants, gas stations and local merchants, Greene County Administrator Brandon Huddleson said.
Hamvention General Chair Ron Cramer said this year’s attendance will likely exceed last year’s total of over 26,000 people at Hara Arena, and possibly eclipse 33,000. He said the increase is likely due to the interest of having it at a new venue, the Greene County Fairgrounds.
“It’s all brand new,” he said. “People want to see how we’ve handled the new venue and I think they will be very pleased.”
The move from Hara to Xenia
The event will open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.
Hamvention, a multi-day convention of ham radio operators, has been sponsored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association and held at the Hara Arena for 52 years.
The event includes over 1,300 flea market spaces, 450 vendor spaces — all of which are completely booked — and 53 forums over the weekend, all dedicated to ham radios.
Moving from Hara Arena to the Greene County Fairgrounds was no easy task, according to Cramer, who said the biggest hurdle they’ve faced is time.
Cramer said he was told Hara Arena was closing in August and has been working ever since to make sure they hold a “five-star” event in the short amount of time given for planning.
“At Hara, everything was taken care of, everyone knew their job,” Cramer said. “Here we’ve had to start from the ground up and reinvent Hamvention. People have spent a lot of time, hours and energy to make sure this does happen.”
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Esther Pierson, Greene County Fairgrounds secretary, said the expected attendance would be the largest three-day event the fairgrounds has ever held.
“Traffic to and from the city of Xenia and traffic to the fairgrounds is going to be really massive,” Pierson said.
Kathleen Wright, Executive Director of the Greene County Convention and Tourism Bureau said all 2,130 hotel rooms, spread over 22 different hotels in the county, have been booked.
Issues with the move
Time — and road traffic — aren’t the only issues Hamvention and county officials have had to deal with in preparing for the weekend. With the increase in people, cell phone traffic could also become an issue both to conventioneers and residents.
“With any big event and huge economic impact comes some negatives,” Huddleson said. Signal boosters on site should help with cell phone connectivity, he continued.
The county also had to find adequate off-site parking for attendees. Huddleson said there are several off-site parking locations, including at Young’s Jersey Dairy — the furthest parking site at approximately 11 miles from the fairgrounds.
First Student buses will provide shuttle service from off-site parking lots.
Size difference in venues and not having enough buildings under cover have been concerns of Cramer, who says they’re trying to create space they don’t have.
“This will work”
Still, even with the change of locations, Cramer, Huddleson and others are excited about the future of the convention.
“This event is not like many others,” Huddleson said. “This is the opportunity for Greene County to be on the world-wide stage. Our vendors and businesses can take the opportunity to show off their wares and services to people from all over this world.”
Greene County Fairgrounds signed a three-year contract with Hamvention. Cramer said the plan is to stay in Greene County.
“We like a long-term relationship,” Cramer said, referencing the 52-year stint at Hara Arena. “That is our plan.”
Huddleson echoed Cramer, saying he hopes to “rival that long-term relationship” Hamvention had with Hara.
“As long as they have a five-star event this weekend, there’s no doubt they’ll continue to come back year after year,” Huddleson said.
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