Well our first park QSL event "The Scratching Post QSL Party" is in the history books. By all measures, the event was a resounding success!
Six in the morning was the beginning whistle for several of us as we began to set up for the day. As we rolled into the Lucedale City Park with trucks and cars full of radio gear and generator Mike KG5UXI was already waiting on site for everyone to arrive. With ladders, tool boxes, radios, antennas, fans, tarps, power supplies, slingshots, extension cords, orange safety cones and FOOD the day begins.
The first station to get setup was the digital, Mike KG5UXI and Brent KG5AZM started on the G5RV and got it about 70 feet up in the tree (not a bad elevation). After getting the G5RV antenna up Brent and Mike left to go to the backup event site to get a few things finished just in case we had to move due to weather.
While the digital station was setting up, Bob KO5F and Dick WA5MVG started unpacking their "wagon train" of supplies for the 20 meter voice station and eventually the End Feed antenna was up, radios on and fans a blowing. Curtis WB4SHX was out and about helping get items ready to go and even made a run to the local doughnut spot for coffee and doughnuts, got to love that sugar!
After getting the digital station setup, I glanced over at the middle pavilion 65 feet to east of me and what did I see but coolers, blueberry muffins, radio flyers, GC ARES frisbees, small bottles of GC ARES bubbles, all kinds of goodies for eating, drinks, plenty of info about Ham Radio and giveaways for the youth. Delisa KG5AZL always cooks too many goodies, a diabetic nightmare.
During the event we had several adults and children non-ham visitors. Some visitors heard about the event by listening to our repeater on their scanner, others saw it on Facebook and on the local City of Lucedale's phone app.
The weather was nice and even though there was a fifty percent chance of rain we only had a light rain around 4:30pm and it was nothing to stop the fun. In all the attendance was about twenty folks give or take, some didn't sign the guest list. Some visitors expressed their interest in getting their Ham license and we told them we could help them out. It was exciting to have support from the hams in the Semmes/Mobile, AL area come out to visit, spend the day and some even went to see the Scratching Post on Main St.
Oh, by the way, a special recognition to John KI5OWW, he upgraded to General class Saturday as he tested in Biloxi. Now John, how about Extra?? Enjoy your new privileges!
As far as contacts go. We had several inquiries from our surrounding county hams wanting to support our event on twenty meters but they were too close for a QSO, so the 20 meter digital station moved to 40 meters voice to get those contacts. Thanks to our ham neighbors for the support, we do have a great ham family here in Mississippi. We had contacts from all over the country and even logged Canada, Anguilla, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Spain, Guatemala, France, Hungary, Italy, Germany. Several stations reported hearing about the event on Amateur Radio Newsline or saw the spot on Hamnation, one of those stations being VP2EIH in Anguilla. The twenty meter voice station being about 100 feet west of the digital station started out using KO5F's Kenwood TS440 but soon ran into a problem and had to use the backup Icom radio belonging to WA5MVG. Yes, an Icom bailed us out (don't rub it in) , thanks Dick.
The digital station worked great, that is... as of two weeks ago. At 7:15 in the morning the digital station powered up and the glow from the display of the Yaesu FT-991A was a beautiful sight to behold. However, the laptop wasn't talking to the radio or any of the supportive software. A reboot was in order, which was done to no success. Drivers were uninstalled and then reinstalled, reboots, changing USB cables, Windows System Restore which never works and is time intensive, and then finally "laying on of hands", but all to no avail (got to love Windows Updates). Scot NI5I got his laptop out and successfully connected to the radio so we then knew it was an issue with my laptop. Scot had to leave for work so I asked my wife to use her laptop, only to find the battery was at 10% and no charger. After making a tactical move to the house the charger was retrieved, WSJTX installed, then the task of getting the laptop and radio configured was soon successfully accomplished by Jeff KI5JJP. Finally, the digital was up and it did well for the few hours of operation.
At the end of the day overcoming all the challenges I am very pleased and proud with what was accomplished for our first park event. The atmosphere was energizing fun, comradery, competitiveness but all in a non-stress relaxed environment. The pile-ups on 20 meters were a fun thing to watch as the operators were working the mic and the laptop trying to decipher the calls and quickly get them logged. It was rumoured I was hushed by others at the 20m table as I approached so the contacts could be heard. Imagine telling me, a General, to hush... hmm. The final count is 215 voice contacts and 53 digital contacts.
A thank you to all those involved in setup, break down, refreshments, equipment and operations. A special appreciation to the following for their support and promotion.. the City of Lucedale, MS , ARRL Section Manager Malcolm Keown W5XX, Amateur Radio Newsline, Don Willbanks AE5DW, Hamnation and the crew. As plans are already in the works for next year's event, I hope to hear you in the 2023 The Scratching Post.
I failed to mention someone that does a great deal in the background and I sometimes overlook but depend on them tremendously, Annis KD1VVZ, my wife. Annis works behind the scenes on several levels with the city of Lucedale intenties making GC ARES be seen. Annis along with our GC ARES management team and members are dedicated folks in getting ham radio hobby to be productive. It's a privilege to have such people in our team. And no, Annis did not make me type this addendum! (but I do like to sleep at night).