Field Day 2020 – Pandemic Style

Erecting the 30 foot tower and beam antenna

It’s Field Day weekend – with a twist.  All spring, we have had to miss meetings, training, conventions and swap meets all due to COVID-19.  We weren’t able to do field day in our normal location at Fort Borst Park as all parks were closed so we made plans to do field day at the home of one of our team members, Don, KI7ZNG, in a beautiful pasture out in the country.

The weekend came to us with heavy clouds, strong winds and very cool temperatures but we weren’t about to be stopped.  We’ve done on air training, Zoom training and even email training.  We were determined to make field day happen so on Friday afternoon, we drove our two communication vans, Comm II and Comm III out to set up.  We erected a 30 foot tower for a beam and established three other long wire antennas as well.  By the end of Friday, we had 20 meters, 40 meters, 80 meters, 6 meters and a mobile digital station up and running.

Early Saturday morning, we began the day with a great breakfast which included the world’s best cinnamon rolls created by Evelyn, KE7ACI, then it was off to finish last minute preparations.  On the air at 11am, we found 20 meters and 40 meters to be the most open bands.  As with many teams, it is not the numbers we are after.  Using the event to train new hams and new ARES team members is more important.  Our communications vans are somewhat complicated with HF capabilities as well as Vhf, Uhf, Fire, Law, scanners and CB all running off three large batteries.  Saturday morning is often used to let those new to these vans get “hands on” time learning how to turn on lights and radios, run logging computers, and for many, trying out a contest for the very first time.  Even learning how to carefully adjust the tuning knob to be precisely on the other ham calling “CQ” takes some practice.  Taking the time to teach about the different antennas being used and how they are orientated is important.  By mid day, we had all of our newer people up to speed and had everything working.

Contacts throughout the day were steady but not spectacular by any means, but we enjoyed each other’s company and were just happy to be able to do some amateur radio work outside for a change having only been released to Phase III for about a week.  Saturday evening brought a wonderful meal and plenty of conversation and laughter.  By 8pm, most of the day crew were headed home and a few intrepid team members determined to stick it out through the night were just settling in.  By morning, the numbers from overnight had brought us up to a respectable total.  Sunday morning was slow and by the time the contest ended at 11am, we were ready to get the equipment down and head for home.  Even so, it was nearly 3pm before the comm vans were back at the fire station and everyone and everything was done.

This has been a very unusual field day for us.  Our very first Centralia ARES team member to join, Lyle Olmsted, KB7PI, passed away in December and this was our first field day without him.  His brother Merle, AA4QE, who lives in Kentucky traditionally came out to join us for field day every year and for the first time in a long time, he remained at home.  Merle was our CW guy and responsible for many years of high contest numbers and this year’s scores showed his absence.

Above and beyond all that is just the whole pandemic issue.  Can we be together or must we stay apart.  Does social distancing work?  We are mostly at the age where these decisions can be very important to our health.  Still, we will do what we can to stay together and safe.  It was a fun field day event.  Who knows, perhaps next year’s field day will be different.  Thanks to everyone who participated in field day.  What you do is important!