Hamfest & What They Are !

Event Details

Over the last few years I have heard folks say that Hamfest  are becoming a thing of the past, I don't think so, Hamfest are alive and very well, no matter how small or big, they are not going away. We all are always looking for bargains in radio equipment, and parts, you the amateur radio operator  are the folks who can make Hamfest great, there is a lot of planning to put on a Hamfest , its not just something that is done over night.  Finding the best location, letting everyone know in advance where, what time and day, getting dealers to attend, what kind of food that will be available, hoping for a beautiful day to have on, that your Hamfest doesn't fall on the same day as another, and that  all information is made public via media and social networks and websites, so that all are aware of it.  

Here is some information that I wanted to share with everyone..

 Depending on how much you like collecting and bargaining, hamfests or a ham radio convention might be for you. Despite online retail being everywhere, hamfests — ham radio flea markets — continue to be some of the most interesting events in ham radio. Imagine a bazaar crammed with technological artifacts spanning nearly a century, old and new, small and massive, tubes, transistors, computers, antennas, batteries … you’re probably worn out just thinking about it. 

 Ham radio conventions have a much broader slate of activities than hamfests do; they may include seminars, speakers, licensing test sessions, and demonstrations of new gear. Some conventions host competitive activities such as foxhunts or direction finding, or they may include a swap meet along with the rest of the functions. Conventions usually have a theme, such as emergency operations, QRP, or digital radio transmissions. 


Finding and preparing for hamfests

In the United States, the best place to find hamfests is ARRL’s Hamfests and Conventions Calendar. Search for events by location or ARRL section or division. The calendar usually lists about 100 hamfests. Most metropolitan areas have several good-size hamfests every year, even in the dead of winter.

After you have a hamfest in your sights, set your alarm for early morning, and get ready to be there at the opening bell. Although most are Saturday-only events, more and more are opening on Friday afternoon.



  • Water and food: Don’t count on food being available, but the largest hamfests almost always have a hamburger stand. Gourmet food is rarely on hand; expect the same level of quality that you’d find at a ballpark concession stand. Taking along a full water bottle is a good idea.


Be sure to bring the following things:

  • An admission ticket: You need a ticket, sold at the gate or by advance order through a website or email.
  • Money: Take cash, because most individual sellers don’t take checks or credit cards.
  • Something to carry your purchases in: Take along a sturdy cloth sack, backpack, or another type of bag that can tolerate a little grime or dust.
  • A handheld or mobile rig: Most hamfests have a talk-in frequency, which is almost always a VHF or UHF repeater. If you’re unfamiliar with the area and don’t have a GPS unit to guide you, get directions while you’re en route.

Buying equipment at a hamfest

Event Details


After parking, waiting, and shuffling along in line, you finally make it inside the gates, and you’re ready to bargain. No two hamfests are alike, of course, but here are some general guidelines to live by, particularly for hamfest newcomers:

  • If you’re new to ham radio, buddy up with a more experienced ham who can steer you around hamfest pitfalls.
  • Most prices are negotiable, especially after lunch on Saturday, but good deals go quickly.
  • Most vendors aren’t interested in trades, but you do no harm by offering.
  • Hamfests are good places to buy accessories for your radio, often for a fraction of the manufacturer’s price if they’re sold separately from the radio. Commercial vendors of new batteries often have good deals on spare battery packs.
  • Many hamfests have electricity available so that vendors can demonstrate equipment and maybe even a radio test bench. If a seller refuses to demonstrate a supposedly functional piece of gear or won’t open a piece of equipment for inspection, you may want to move along.


  • Don’t be afraid to ask what something is. Most of the time, the ham behind the table enjoys telling you about his or her wares, and even if you don’t buy anything, the discussion may attract a buyer.
  • Be familiar with the smell of burned or overheated electronics, especially transformers and sealed components. Direct replacements may be difficult to obtain.
  • If you know exactly what you’re looking for, check auction and radio swap sites such as eham and QRZ before and even while attending the hamfest if you have a smartphone. You can get an idea of the going price and average condition, so you’re less likely to get gouged.
  • The commercial vendors will sell you accessories, tools, and parts on the spot, which saves you shipping charges.


Finding conventions and conferences

Conventions tend to be more extravagant affairs, held in hotels or conventions centers, that are advertised in ham radio magazines as well as online. The main purposes are programs, speakers, and socializing.

The one largest ham radio conventions are the Dayton , held in Ohio in mid-May, and Dayton regularly draws more than 20,000 hams.. Dayton has mammoth flea markets, an astounding array of programs, internationally known speakers, and more displays than you can possibly see.


ARRL national and division conventions  are held all over the United States.  These conventions typically attract a few hundred to a few thousand people and are designed to be family friendly. They also provide a venue for specialty groups to host conferences within the overall event. These smaller conferences offer extensive programs on regional disaster and emergency communications, direction finding, QRP, county hunting, wireless networking on ham bands, and so on.

Some conventions and conferences emphasize one of ham radio’s many facets, such as DXing, VHF and UHF operating, or digital technology. If you’re a fan of a certain mode or activity, treating yourself to a weekend convention is a great way to meet hams who share your tastes and to discover more about your interests. 

And don't forget, its a great place to meet operators you talk too, always great fellowship,  have fun, buy -sell-trade, and its a great way to get folks who are not amateur radio operators into this great hobby !!

Sevier County Hamfest  is growing fast, for 2020 the expected attendance  is well over a 1000, and is the largest Hamfest in East TN with 17 acres ,inside and outside Boneyard, Commercial Dealers, Clubs & Organizations,  and much more. This last year we had folks from all over the Eastern US join us, so set your date for March 28th,2020 and come join us..  Rain or Shine !!