First Greene County Hamvention gets high marks

Greene County’s first time hosting the very popular Hamvention was a “huge success,” according to county administrator Brandon Huddleson and event chair Ron Cramer, despite several issues officials said they are working on correcting.

“Everybody went away with a smile on their face, everyone was happy with the site,” Cramer said. “Everybody had a good time.”

Both agreed that there were some major issues were weather-related, as rain, mixed with increases in temperature caused for muddy, humid conditions.

RELATED: Greene County officials prepared for ‘different’ weekend with Hamvention

“Mother nature didn’t do us any favors by raining on us four days straight,” Huddleson said.

Cramer said the event, held May 19-21, brought close to the expected 30,000 people to the Greene County Fairgrounds last weekend, though the number of attendees hasn’t been determined. This was the first time the convention had been away from the Hara Arena in Trotwood in 52 years.

Hara Arena announced in August the venue was closing, forcing Hamvention to find another venue. After being at the Hara Arena for a half-century, convention officials say they are looking to make Greene County their permanent home.

Cramer said next year, Greene County and Hamvention officials will look to increase airflow throughout the enclosed parts of the fairgrounds by purchasing larger fans. Plans to find more off-site parking lots and increase shuttles from the lots to the fairgrounds are improvements they are working on for next year.

RELATED: Hamvention expects increased attendance at new venue

“That will be the primary ([goal) in trying to direct people to the off-site parking and just have buses coming in and out of the fairgrounds,” Huddleson said. “I think that will move people faster and people will be happier.”

With nearly 30,000 people expected to have attended the event from Friday to Sunday, traffic was always a concern of convention organizers. County Sheriff Gene Fischer said one traffic hiccup on opening day caused them to change their approach. After the change, traffic flowed much better.

“It’s basically how you park cars,” he said. “Get them in and get them parked versus talking to every driver. It worked really well.”

Fischer said he was told some people were forced to wait over 90 minutes for parking that first day.

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Every year since 1979, Mitch Stern has driven 14 hours from Vermont to attend Hamvention. He said the change in venues were not as bad as some people may have been expecting.

“You have to give them credit, they were tasked with an incredible challenge of picking up a city of 25,000 people and moving it across town to a very different venue,” he said.

Stern, who teaches a class on how to become an amateur radio operator, said after being used to one place for close to 40 years, he felt “a little lost” this time around.

“Everything was in a different place,” he said. “Both the indoor and outdoor vendors were always in the same spots, so you knew exactly where to go. I’m sure we’ll get back to that, but it was a different experience.”

RELATED: Hamvention expects increased attendance at new venue

For future Hamventions, Fischer said he won’t go into the weekend expecting the changes made this past weekend would continue to work, but that increased off-site parking would help.

Huddleson said hotel space in the region was “at a premium” during the convention. Greene County Convention and Visitors Bureau reported every hotel in the county had been booked.

That’s led Huddleson to rethink his strategy on lodging options for conventioneers. He said he’s gauging interest from local universities in opening up dorm rooms for future Hamventions.

After the University of Dayton opened some of their dorms to Hamvention attendees, Huddleson said he’ll look to Central State University, Wilberforce University, Cedarville University and Wright State University as possible lodging destinations.

“We’ll be engaging those schools early on to see if that’s an option for Hamvention visitors,” Huddleson said. “We’d be happy to run buses to those universities to pick up those people if they took advantage of both the parking and dormitories.”

Huddleson said he gauged interest from CSU before Hamvention opened, but it was too late for them to have rooms ready. He said he expects CSU and others to become willing partners for the three-day event.

“Provided the schools can get those turned around from school being out and rent them out to Hamvention attendees, that would be great,” he said.

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