Author Topic: The NEAR-Fest Story - Who are the People Who Made it Happen?  (Read 12301 times)

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Offline W1RC

  • NEAR-Fest Founder & Benevolent Dictator.
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Many of you have been directing a lot of thanks and congratulatory messages to me since NEAR-Fest I was held in the spring of 2007 along with the thirteen others that followed and are now history.  Judging from all the positive comments they have been deemed unqualified successes.  It's hard to believe that we're planning our 15th event scheduled for May 2nd and 3rd 2014.

Creating and organizing this hamfest and especially bringing the whole gang all back to Deerfield on May 4th 2007 has been without a doubt one of the most satisfying and enjoyable experiences I have experienced in my 45 odd-years of involvement in Amateur Radio.  It has been a great privilege and honor to be able to give back something to the wonderful folks who make up the New England and Eastern Canadian radio communities with whom I have enjoyed being associated with for so many years. 

Many people have asked me how I was able to do it in the six short weeks after the contract with the Fair Association was signed in March 2007.  Let's clear up one misconception right now - I didn't do it - WE did it.  All I did was to assemble the Team.  Everyone I invited to join me enthusiastically agreed to help pull this off.  But the real thanks and our gratitude must go to all of you who sent in your $$ early or bought their tickets/passes at other flea markets.  $8,500.00 in advance sales to put plenty of money in the bank account is what really made it happen. 

In addition, all of you who volunteered and sacrificed part of your hamfest to help, whether it be selling tickets, cleaning up the trash and all the other small but necessary jobs helped to make it happen.  Everyone who traveled from New England, New York, New Jersey, Peni, err, Pennsylvania, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, even California, all determined to preserve the "Grand Tradition" initiated by the Hosstraders and keep the flame burning did it!  All of you!  WE ALL DID IT!!!!

And, because we did it so well the Fair Association has informed me that WE'RE ALL WELCOME BACK AGAIN, so indeed the "Grand Tradition" shall continue!   

Here's how it all went down:

The HOSSTRADERS posted their farewell sign-off message on their Web site on Friday February 9th 2007.  Shock and disbelief traveled as fast as the RF energy could carry the message.  Gloom and sadness (and in some cases, severe depression) quickly set in.

Having attended Hosstraders for 30+ years (and never missed one) I was also saddened by our great loss but realized that 34 years running an event like Hosstraders is more than enough to burn anybody out!  My first thoughts were could we possibly get the Deerfield Fairgrounds again........hmmm.

My initial role in this effort was conceptual and site-acquisition oriented.  On Saturday morning I was drawing up an "Action Plan to see if I could get the Deerfield Fair Association to agree to rent me the grounds.  Discussions began on Monday morning and the signed contract arrived in the mail six weeks later on Saturday March 17th. 

Once the Fairgrounds were secured it quickly became directed at raising the necessary funds and planning the logistics of the now very real NEAR-Fest I that was rapidly approaching.  On Friday March 16th 2007 I officially announced the news on the Allan Weiner Worldwide program on WBCQ the Planet (7,415 KHz).  The word was out.  We were indeed going back to Deerfield.

My first cohort in this effort was Gary, W2INR, who presented me with a fully running Web site at no cost complete with the NEAR-FEST.COM domain already registered and ready to go.  He gave me EVERYTHING I asked for, including this wonderful NEAR-Fest forum.   I did not spend a dime on advertising or publicity.  Without this web site and forum, up and running as quickly as it was I could have NEVER pulled this together in such a short time and none of us would have experienced that incredible and unforgettable journey back to Deerfield NH on May 4th and 5th 2007. 

W2INR is hereby accorded the title of NEAR-Fest Founder for his outstanding work on the Web site and the NEAR-Fest Forum.

Clem VE2BIA from Saint-Basile-le-Grand, Quebec, also deserves our thanks.  Clem translated the information sheet into French and represented us at several hamfests in La Belle Province to publicize NEAR-Fest.  Merci beaucoup!  Leo, VE2SI did likewise on the English side.  I saw a lot of hams from Quebec as well as Ontario, New Brunswick and even a couple from Nova Scotia.  Henceforth Clem and Leo are the official NEAR-Fest Canadian Liasions.

VE2BIA is hereby accorded the title of NEAR-Fest Founder for his exemplary work promoting NEAR-Fest north of the Border.

Our message is clear - NEAR-Fest is an INTERNATIONAL radio event and all radio enthusiasts whether they hold an amateur license or not are welcome.

Others helped us by selling tickets and passes at hamfests in March and April.  These include Joe, K1JEK, Kurt W1OBQ and Jerry K0TV (SK). 

Essentially Gary and I got everyone, management, staff, commercial exhibitors, food vendors and attendees together at the Deerfield Fairground gates.  At 6:00AM Friday the control of the event shifted away from me and Mike, K1TWF took the wheel.  Gary and I were free to pretty much casually attend the event (yeah, sure!) and just monitor the site.

A couple of other guys who really deserve your thanks for the way NEAR-Fest are actually conducted are Mike, K1TWF, aka "Twoof" and Ed, N1IWV and their wonderful team of volunteers, many of whom are members of the Billerica (MA) Amateur Radio Society (BARS).  Because I knew I couldn't possibly run this event properly I asked Mike to run NEAR-Fest because he has done such a super fine job running the ARRL New England Convention at Boxborough MA since 2000.  Mike is the ARRL New England Vice Director (in charge of all vice in New England).   The next Boxborough Convention will be held on August 25 and 26, 2012 and I am sure that we wiil all have a grand old time  We'll all be there for the next one in 2012 and hope that you will too. See their Web site for full details:

Mike, K1TWF ran NEAR-Fest I and the others that followed.  Let me tell you, RAN is the operative word.  I've seen Mike run before at Boxborough MA several times.  Only one person can be in charge and he was that person the entire time we were at Deerfield.  Mike had to deal with some problems that surfaced because I screwed up but we got through it all and we now have enough $$$ to pay for future NEAR-Fests.  Many of you laughed at the prize drawing when I said that if I had been in charge of running the 'Fest you'd still be waiting at the gates to get in.  I wasn't joking.  Thanks to Twoof and his volunteers, Gate F opened at exactly 9:00AM and NEAR-Fest I was formally under way, as promised, on schedule! 

Ed is the NEAR-Fest Treasurer.  He's also the Head Honcho in charge of the Commercial Exhibits and Chief Bean Counter at the ARRL New England Convention at Boxborough Massachusetts.  Ed counts the money, signs the checks and keeps the books without which there can be no NEAR-Fests so be extra nice to him!

For their incredible efforts K1TWF and N1IWV are also hereby accorded the title of NEAR-Fest Founders.

Tim, WA1HLR also deserves a great deal of recognition for his innovative 'On-Site" communications systems.  There are, of course, going to be some developmental difficulties and Tim expects them to work themselves out over time.  However the two micro-broadcasting stations took the challenge and provided important informational services over the airwaves.  Public opinion seems to indicate that the lack of a site-wide PA system was a good thing.  Next time bring more radios and listen to them if you want official announcements. 

The title of NEAR-Fest Founder has been bestowed upon WA1HLR for his creative and innovative on-site communications work, and, in general, for just being 'da Tron and lending his colorful personality that exemplifies our event.

Another NEAR-Fest Founder is my old buddy from Vermont, Todd, KA1KAQ is the Director of Forums and Special Events which encompasses a large area of responsibility.  Todd is in charge of the Forums, Workshops, Guest Speakers, Special Events stations and non-commercial exhibits. He travels up from North Carolina twice each year to take part.

NEAR-Fest hero Bruce, W1LUS ran the VE examining session at the Deerfield Fire Station.  He and his VE Team report that they had 30 exam candidates and there are 11 new technicians, 11 new General upgrades and one extra upgrade.  That ain't bad!  Thanks, Bruce.  Now we have a meeting room where Bruce and his team can conduct the exams on-site which make things much easier for everyone.  Anyone who passes a test at Deerfield will receive our congratulations and a voucher for complimentary admission to the next NEAR-Fest.

Every one of you who picked up a piece of trash or a cigarette butt also helped out immensely in this effort.  During the 'Fester many of us, including the representative from the Fair Association were very impressed with the fact that there was literally no litter (sorry) anywhere.  Brenteena's Garbage Detail fascinated him the most.  He couldn't believe that a gang of the sorriest miscreants ever seen in the place driving around the grounds in a small bucket loader to which a chair was attached with someone getting "The Big Ride" were having so much fun for two days.  But behind the laughter they were actually hauling trash from the barrels to the dumpster. 

Without the dedicated efforts of Brenteena, W1IA, Jim, N1HTS and Jim, W1KQ and their "Garbage Detail" crew we would probably not be as welcome back at Deerfield as  we are.  At NEAR-Fest X on October 15th 2011 they were presented with special "Hero of Deerfield" passes in recognition of their outstanding contribution at NEAR-Fest I.

The Site Monitors and Cleanup Crew also deserve high marks and your vote of gratitude for their efforts.   This was also extremely important work. 

I also want to thank the great commercial vendors and dealers who occupied the two commercial buildings and to the NEAR-Fest Director of Commercial Exhibits, John, K1JJS who made sure that their wants and needs were well taken care of. 

In addition I'd personally like to acknowledge the efforts of Mr. Alan O'Neal, a member of the Deerfield Fair Association Board of Directors.  Alan worked with us to get the contractual details sorted out quickly so we could have the Fairgrounds with such short notice.  This also included working through a severe 'Nor Easter' that flooded the area when the Town of Deerfield was an island for several days with no telephone service to boot.  This just a couple of weeks before NEAR-Fest I.  It was a pleasure to work with Alan for the first few 'festers and develop a solid relationship with the Board of Directors that is in place to this day.

The Fairgrounds easily passed inspection with high marks just before 6:00 on Saturday and we returned it to the owners in the same condition as we had received it.

Most important Sheryl Bolduc, the President of the Deerfield Fair Association, told me that they are completely satisfied with the way we conducted ourselves and I have been informed by her that we are more than welcome to use the grounds again.  This is because we have set a high standard for ourselves in order to earn their approval.  However, we must maintain it if we wish to keep using their Fairgrounds which should be easy enough to do given the incredible high level of cooperation we witnessed in NEAR-Fest I and II. 

Although almost everyone there acted responsibly and removed their unsold junk there were a very small number who were not so inclined.  Thanks to the watchful attendees who brought them to our attention we were able to convince many of them to do the right thing and take it all home with them.  However not everyone was so cooperative.  Fortunately, our Sergeant-At-Arms, (and NEAR-FEST Founder) Paul, W1PRA, was able to explain it to them in terms even they could understand. 

This annoying (and costly) problem of abandoned garbage and "heavy metal" left behind by ignorant and irresponsible individuals that has plagued so many other hamfests was virtually eliminated at Deerfield the first time out.  We are committed to maintaining this standard we have set for all future events.  There were no homeless monitors found, although one clown tried to dump three of 'em using the old "free pile" scam.  Fortunately The INR and I caught him and after a brief chat with W1PRA the monitors went home with the owner.  We now know who some of these people are and if they should visit us again we will keep a close watch on them.  It is most unfortunate that NEAR-Fest must adopt and maintain such a proactive approach to this problem but this is the just the kind of thing unchecked that would get us booted out of our beloved Deerfield forever which would mean the end of NEAR-Fest.  It has become clear to those of us responsible for running NEAR-Fest that given the times in which we live this tough policy of aggressive enforcement must be maintained and refined and this will be done.

For their hard work and dedication the following have been accorded the title of NEAR-Fest Founding Associate.  They are listed in no particular order.

Brent, W1IA
Jim, N1HTS 
Leo, VE2SI                                                                   
Jerry, K0TV 
Jeff, KA1OGM
Jim, W1KQ
Joe, K1JEK                                             
Kurt, W1OBQ                                       
Bruce, W1LUS                                       
John, KB1OBH
Tom, W1VVV                                         
Larry, NE1S                                           
Bob, W1NH
John, N1WIL   90.5
Jeff, N1ZZN,  103.1
Mike, N1IW                                           
Eric, KA1SUN
and everyone who attended this landmark event.

As far as folks attending NEAR-Fest I my old friend Neil, K6SMF and his XYL Arleen KF6LAF clearly traveled the longest distance, driving over 3,000 miles from Los Angeles California specifically to be with us on this monumental occasion.

For their outstanding support, dedication, enthusiasm and perseverence in driving from California to Deerfield NH to attend NEAR-Fest I, K6SMF and KF6LAF are also hereby accorded the title of NEAR-Fest Founders. Neil and Arleen were awarded LIFETIME PASSES at the NEAR-Fest II at the Closing Ceremony in October 2007.  Unfortunately Arleen passed away in March 2008 but Neil kept the spirit alive by driving all the way from California to be with us at every NEAR-Fest we've had; a perfect attendance record!!!

 Arleen's presence is sadly missed but we hope to see Neil's smiling face (and wonderful goodies he brings along to offer us) for many years to come.

Now we begin moving towards NEAR-Fest XX and the cycle starts again.   Keep tuned to the NEAR-Fest Web site for the latest details.  We'll see you all at Deerfield bright and early on Friday October 14th 2016!

Isn't it wonderful just to be able to say "see you at Deerfield" again!  For many of us this is indeed a dream come true.


MrMike, W1RC
NEAR-Fest Founder, General Chairman and Benevolent Dictator.