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Amateur radio enthusiasts 'ham' it up

May 03, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

SHARPSBURG -- Four years ago, Dave Beaver of Sharpsburg began dabbling in amateur radio based on his interest in electronics and communicating with other people.

Now, Beaver says he's able to speak with people via amateur radio -- also known as ham radio -- as close as his own town or as far away as Europe.

Beaver was one of the anticipated 300 amateur radio enthusiasts to attend Sunday's fundraiser for the Antietam Radio Association at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center. About $500 is typically raised during the event, which featured a raffle, exhibits and equipment sales, according to Karin Christensen of Boonsboro, the association's secretary and Hamfest chairwoman.

Francis Sappington of Charles Town, W.Va., attended Sunday's fundraiser looking for good deals on radio equipment. He has been a commercial radio operator for about 20 years.

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"It's kind of like a flea market," he said of the fundraiser. "Maybe you find something. I found a few little goodies at a good price."

Christensen said local "hams" communicate using radio as a hobby and as a public service. In the event that a disaster disrupts cell phone communication, ham radio operators can communicate using no power.

Christensen said the bulk of the money raised Sunday will go to support the association's two repeaters, which allow radio communications in a wider area.

She said an annual service of the Antietam Radio Association, which has about 120 members, is to assist with the JFK 50 Mile ultramarathon. Amateur radio operators are stationed along the course, which runs from Boonsboro to Williamsport along paved roads, the Appalachian Trail and the C&O Canal towpath.

Christensen said the radio operators are prepared to call for help if a runner drops out or needs medical assistance along the route.

Jim Cross, American Radio Relay League section manager for Maryland and Washington, D.C., attended Sunday's event and said there are about 36 radio clubs in his region with a couple thousand members.

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