Last weekend was the first Great Lakes HamCon which took place at the Michigan International Speedway. By all accounts the venue was spectacular, the crowd sparse, and the vendors nearly non-existent.
I had penciled this one in on my calendar months ago but as the date approached I couldn’t find any vendors who planned to be there. Not a single one. In fact, a few seemed genuinely surprised to learn of the event. Clearly more advance work is required.
The event site says there were “over 1,100 paid attendance” which is great for a first time event, but I suspect most of those in attendance were there to attend one or more of the forums. Organizers rolled out an impressive lineup of speakers but that tends to blur the line between a hamfest and a convention - I suppose that’s why they called it a HamCon.
Which begs the question, are ham radio conventions growing faster than hamfests? I believe the answer is “YES”.
The Visalia DX Convention, W9DXCC, W4DXCC, TAPR Digital Communications Conference, AMSAT Space Symposium, the Six Meter BBQ in Texas, I could go on but you get the point. I think it’s a definite trend, local hamfest organizers probably disagree.
You put on a show in a clean, air-conditioned hotel conference center with a few good speakers and a handful of specialty vendors, and you appeal to a rapidly growing segment of the hobby for whom the typical “hamfest” has become bourgeois.
In the case of the Great Lakes HamCon it seems they have the perfect venue to rival that big show a couple hundred miles down Interstate 75, but apparently it takes a lot more than a great venue to succeed in the world of “hamfests” - no matter what you call it.