The Greene County Fairgrounds, new home of the Hamvention is a 45 minute drive from where I happen to be working in Cincinnati today. So after work I ran up the road to tour the facilities. As it turns out, the annual county fair is going on this week and it cost me six bucks to take the grand tour — and four dollars more for a corndog.
Given the broiling heat (96F) and my lack of interest in riding the zipper or tilt-a-whirl, I spent exactly one hour walking the grounds, snapping photos, and trying to imagine how this space is going to be best used.
First and foremost, if you had worries about parking space, relax. It’s on grass but that’s no different than the big lot across the road from Hara where thousands of us have trudged back and forth for decades. And there are seemingly endless acres of it. We won’t runout of parking space. Besides, on-site parking could be a bonus since there are no 3rd-parties renting their land for parking — maybe Hamvention will offer parking free for attendees?
There is a reasonable amount of parking available inside the gates near the buildings. I assume this will be mostly reserved for vendor and handicap parking. There is a paved circular drive near the entrance, perhaps suitable for pick-up and drop-offs but it could create long queues.
Inside there is a relatively large midway with a paved road around it. Since the fair was going on, you can see how these vendors lined up and I can imagine a lot of the flea-market taking place around the midway.
There’s a horse track with a grandstand where Bob Heil or Gordo could coax us into rollicking tunes like ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ after leading us all in a solemn recitation of The Radio Amateurs Code.
Seriously, how about we get the Spurious Emissions Band up there for a few sets?
There are several buildings, more than just the four that were mentioned by others in previous discussions. Three of the main exhibition buildings are large and roomy. These buildings were not air-conditioned but large wall and ceiling fans kept air moving nicely through the large open doors. We’re going to have to get used to walking between buildings, but it reminds me a lot of the fairgrounds used for the Orlando Hamcation.
There were bathrooms, but I didn’t see enough of them — I surely just missed seeing all of them since the annual fair regularly attracts 80,000 people over four days and that many bladders are bound to spring leaks.
There were a lot of campers and motorhomes setup there, but I have no idea how many of those to expect at Hamvention so it’s hard to say if there will be sufficient space for all who want to camp on site.
If I had to sum up the site in a single word that would be “rustic”. It’s a county fairground. A place where livestock is shown and judged, bought and sold. And as you might expect, it’s located on the edges of town, a small town at that.
The large buildings are well-kept with smooth, concrete floors. Parking won’t be a problem. Flea-market vendors are going to be happy, and I think “inside” exhibitors will get happy too — once they figure out a pecking order and where the most advantageous (and expensive) spots will be located.
My only real concern is the lack of meeting rooms. These are popular, attracting over a hundred people for some of the sessions and at Hara Arena, there were three such rooms in use constantly. And that doesn’t include the testing sessions. I did notice a private school building across the road, perhaps that could be employed for the weekend?
Bottom line, I think this is going to work and probably work well. With a little imagination we’re likely to see creative new ways to conduct a show like Hamvention with large crowds and rave reviews in a new configuration.
It seems like a great hangout for ham!