"Hoss-Traders" Returns To Deerfield
by Mark Ryan, WA1FAF
The largest ham radio flea market in New England, the Hoss-Traders Tailgate Swapfest, will be held in Deerfield, N.H., on Saturday, June 3, 1989. This is welcome and unexpected news, especially considering the recent history of this event. The purpose of this article is to explain what this swapfest has meant to AMers in the past, and what AMers can do to ensure its future.
So, for those who live outside the Northeast, a brief history of "Deerfield", as it is most often called, is in order. It was started in the mid 70's by Norm, WA1IVB, and Joe, K1RQG, among others, as a small flea market held in Seabrook, N.H., on the Saturday before Mothers Day, in May. After a year or two, the site was moved to the Deerfield Fairgrounds, a large, wooded area. The hamfest was held annually on the second Saturday in May. Around 1980, the hamfest had grown to such an extent that the hams needed to rent out the entire fairgrounds, after having previously shared the area with a horse show. Word was out that "Deerfield" had become a rite of spring. The dealings there were always friendly and low-key, the country atmosphere was refreshing, and it became the largest ham radio related social event in New England.
In the early 80's, a Hoss-Traders flea market was added at Deerfield in mid-October, usually on the Columbus Day weekend. Although the October crowds were never quite as large as in May, this move was met with widespread approval. AMers were especially active at the October Deerfield getting the parts necessary for those winter radio projects.
As the 80's continued, the Deerfield swapfests in spring and fall grew. Fortunately, the fairgrounds were spacious. There was room to camp out the Friday before and kibbitz, and get up on Saturday and have breakfast provided by one of the various clubs that fed the hams for the fest. We were never cramped. In May 1986, 7800 tickets were sold. This included SWLs, YLs and XYLs. That was one of the most memorable Deerfields ever. The weather was unusually warm, sunny, and in the 80s. And as the saying went, "It never rains on Deerfield."
There were signs of trouble among all the successes. The "freebie" pile had to be eliminated. People would leave behind their boat anchors in a selected area, and an alert AM homebrewer could find some pretty valuable parts. But the cost of trash removal became too high for the Hosstraders committee to remove what was left. The fairgrounds committee no longer considered the hams desirable tenants for a number of reasons. In 1986 and 1987, there were announcements made over the public address system that if the fairgrounds committee determined that the hams were not respecting the site and keeping it clean and safe, we would not be welcomed back to Deerfield.
Apparently, the fairgrounds committee felt that the warnings were not being heeded, and in early 1988, what we feared became official. The Hoss-Traders Swapfest would not be allowed in Deerfield. The Hoss-Traders threesome moved the event to the Kingston, New Hampshire fairgrounds. It would be held again on the traditional May date. Almost universally, area hams were somewhat disappointed at the move, but were willing to give Kingston a chance.
Kingston was clearly not Deerfield. The area was wide open and had no trees. That May day was hot and it was uncomfortable for some. Dry areas were dusty, wet areas were muddy. The women were particularly upset that there was no plumbing on the site and portable johnnies had to be used. It was not a place to have a social event. The May hamfest, however, had about 5000 people, a relatively good crowd. Still, it was obvious that practically no one liked the place. The October Kingston was a disaster. It was rainy and cold and the grounds were a sea of mud. At noontime there was a door prize drawing, and right after that was done, the place emptied. This was the earliest end to a Hoss-Traders event in memory.
The questions on everyone's mind over last winter was, "Where will the 1989 Hoss-Traders be?" When Norm, WA1IVB, announced that we would be returning home after a year's absence, joy spread over the land. The traditional May date was unavailable, so this year June 3 was chosen for the big event.
AMers can play a major role in keeping this hamfest where it belongs. Norm wrote me a letter and filled in what the conditions are. Open fires are strictly verboten, since there are a lot of wooden buildings and dry pine needles. Some hams have broken into some of these buildings to sleep in and the owners of these, especially the various food stands, have complained of damage. These are privately owned, not by the fairgrounds. Metal trash is not to be left behind. Alcohol is still allowed, just don't overdo it. These are all reasonable rules and with a little peer pressure, maybe everything will be cool.
There will be a greater presence of uniformed security. However, except for the date, all should be as good as ever. AMers have come to Deerfield from as far away as Pennsylvania and New Brunswick, and no one has left disappointed.
Come one, come all!! Bring your junque and set up a table. We have a second chance at Deerfield! Let's make it the best ever. As one will hear throughout the month of May, all across the AM window, "See you at Deerfield!".