Last March, we did a good thing by hosting a radio merit badge session. At that event, more than 120 Scouts got their badge. Yesterday, we followed up on that success by participating in the Great Sauk Trail 2007 Boy Scout Camporee. Pat W8LNO, Dave N8SBE, Mark AB8ZI, yours truly, and more than 6,000 Scouts and their adult supervision attended the Camporee. This was quite an event, and I think I speak for the other guys when I say it was a lot of fun.
This was not my finest hour as far as an organizer. As late as Friday morning, I really didn’t have any idea how were were going to do this. A few phone calls later, though, and Pat had agreed to tow the ARROW trailer out to the site, and Mark volunteered his Buddipole and VHF station. Dave brought his FT-817, while I brought the club’s IC-746PRO, a code practice oscillator, and some ham radio literature. This, coupled with a cooler of bottled water brought out by Mark, proved to be quite a decent station. Thanks, guys, for stepping up.
We made about 30 contacts, mostly on 40m and mostly on phone. (I did manage to sneak in a few CW QSOs, though.) We did try operating 20m for a bit, and we did manage a contact with a German station, but for the most part, the band didn’t seem to be cooperating.
This looked like it was going to be a problem because Mark’s Buddipole doesn’t seem to like to load up on 40m phone. After a bit of goofing around on 20m, without a lot of success, Mark suggested that we try the Buddipole in a vertical configuration, using a 32-ft. counterpoise. That worked like a charm, and we began to make lots of contacts on 40m phone.
The odd thing about this configuration is that it didn’t want to load on 40m CW. So, in the dipole configuration, the antenna didn’t like 40m phone, but in the vertical configuration it didn’t like 40m CW. As it turns out, the problem was that Pat’s truck, which he parked underneath the low end of the counterpoise to prevent the kids from getting clotheslined, was detuning the antenna. When he left, the antenna would then magically tune up on CW.
We also made a bunch of VHF contacts via the LARK repeater. In particular, Pat was able to raise Ricky, KD8EYO, who’s just ten years old. He encouraged a lot of the Scouts he talked to to get their tickets.
At 4:30 pm, the action in the Midway, where we were located, started to wind down. The big inflatable playpens were deflated, and the drunk driving demo was decommissioned. We continued operating for a while, and got a few more visitors, but it was clear that this part of the Camporee was over. Just before 5 pm, we headed over for dinner.
After dinner, we decided to pack it up and go home. I was on the road about 6:45.
Overall, this was a great event. We made a lot of contacts, and demoed ham radio to quite a few campers and their parents and troop leaders. And the interest level was really quite high, measured by the number of pamphlets and other info that we passed out.