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Ham radio operators converge here

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They are quietly behind the scenes at most major events and this weekend, well over 100 amateur radio operators quietly converged in Fort Frances for their annual get-together.

“Camp 807,” a network of radio operators in Dryden, Kenora, and Fort Frances, gathered at the Holiday Village Campground to swap ideas, stories, and equipment.

The annual conference also gave the region’s local radio operators the chance to meet face-to-face after talking over the airwaves for months, or even years. Many of them only know each other by their call signs despite numerous conversations.

“It’s just fun to meet the voices you hear on the radio and get rid of some old equipment,” said Bill Stunden (VA3ZA) of Aurora, Ont., who has a camp in Kenora

“It’s our hobby and now we have a sort of a flea-market and get to socialize,” added John Bell (VE4OL) of Winnipeg. “We’re talking to each other all the time and finally we see each other.”

Under a big tent erected on the campground, the radio operators gathered Saturday morning to buy, sell, and exchange equipment.

“It’s the technology, I think it’s a challenge and learning experience, and the chance to talk to people,” said Bell. “It’s also for emergency situations. We take part in a lot of emergency stuff and we do a lot of community events.”

Art Pattison, president of the Rainy Lake Amateur Radio Club, some radio operators were out in last Tuesday’s storm helping to pass along information to residents.

Ham radio operators have been used worldwide to communicate during natural disasters when other communications are down.

Amateur radio operators from “Camp 807” also are behind the scenes at the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship, the Kenora Bass International (KBI), and the Christmas parades in Fort Frances, Dryden, and Kenora helping co-ordinate movement during the events.

To attend last week’s camp, radio operators were guided in via radio once they reached the Fort Frances area.

“Quite a few of them were guided in,” said Pattison. “We heard ‘Now I’m on Second Street, what do I do know?’ and that sort of thing.

“We could have stood for it to be a little cooler, though,” he laughed.

During the weekend, operators also watched a demonstration of solar power, and Norm Bell (VE3YJM) of Thunder Bay hosted a seminar on emergency response for amateur radio operators.

A number of door prizes, donated by area businesses, also were handed out.

The “Camp 807” conference usually is hosted by either the Dryden, Kenora, or Fort Frances club each year but next year a new club will join the ranks, giving it a little more international flavour.

“For the first time, it’ll be in Warroad, Mn. next year. That’ll allow things to spread out,” said Pattison.

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