The radio waves will be buzzing and humming with the sounds of the Delta Amateur Radio Society (DARS) this weekend.
DARS members will be making contact all over North America — and maybe even the world — and you can be part of the fun.
Starting Saturday morning (June 22) at North 40 Park Reserve near Boundary Bay Airport, most of the ham radio (amateur radio) enthusiasts in the community will be coming together for DARS’s annual Field Day.
The 70-plus amateur radio members of DARS keep their skills tack sharp through events like their Field Day. The competition on the day will see who can make the most unique contacts with other hams around the world in a 24-hour period.
“The basic idea is to make as many contacts with as many other amateur operators as possible in that 24-hour stretch,” said DARS vice president Mark Toeckes, a seven-year veteran ham radio operator.
Contact includes giving your own call sign and receiving the other person’s call sign and location, which is then recorded.
Toeckes told the North Delta Reporter in a phone interview that there is something special about getting on the air, “because you just never know who you’re going to end up on the waves with.”
“Originally I used to enjoy listening to short wave radio growing up, like many hams do. Well, years went by and I actually ended up taking a course through the Delta Amateur Radio Society to get my certificate seven years ago,” said Toeckes, a mechanical engineer by day and amateur radio operator by weekend. “I really wanted to be one of those voices and be part of it all.”
“I’ll never forget it, my first ever QSO (that means conversation in ham speak) was with a gentleman in Texas who was sitting on a Sunday afternoon with his grandson,” he said. “…People don’t really understand how amazing it is to talk over the air.”
Cellphones connect us all to the world, but while our individual phones are wireless, the towers we connect to are hard lined into the ground, and Toeckes said that is what makes ham radio so exciting.
“We’re actually communicating around the world, without the help of cellular networks,” Toeckes said, and that is especially important in the event of a major disaster anywhere in the world.
Cellphone signals jam; communicating with friends and family can become nearly impossible if everyone is crowding the network. In an instant, it could drive chaos.
Ham radio can deliver important information to the places that need it most in the event of a disaster. This is why events like the DARS Field Day and the competition surrounding it are so important. DARS is a partner of, and receives funding from, the City of Delta and the society if ever called upon would provide a fundamental service in connecting those in most need with emergency services.
“This isn’t just a contest, it’s also an emergency preparedness activity because we have to be able to do this out in the middle of nowhere,” Toeckes said. “And then there’s the social aspect, where you get to chat with so many different hams for 24 hours at North 40 Park Reserve.”
The DARS members will be setting up starting the evening of June 21, but the competition kicks off Saturday morning and runs through to 11 a.m. on Sunday.
“If there comes the time where we have an emergency, DARS have the infrastructure to connect anywhere. And that’s really what Field Day is all about.”
DARS invites the public to come out and get their voice out on the radio, as well as chat with someone new from across the globe. If you head down to North 40 Park Reserve near the Boundary Bay Airport June 22 during the day or evening, you’re bound to see more than a few antennas and hams (not the eating kind) set up for a marathon of radio chat and fun with friends.
“I love seeing new people come out and get hooked on it, it gives me so much joy, so come on out, it’s a great location. We’re a pretty laid back group and we have a great station where we can actually coach you or your kids through making a contact,” Toeckes said.