2017 Clewiston Sugar Festival

KI4QIQ, KI4LFF, and some Big Tires

The 31st Clewiston Sugar Festival is in the books, and by most any measure it was a mass-of-humanity good time. Live music, shiny custom cars, old-school steam farm equipment, and food, food, food.

The participating amateur radio operators of Big Lake ARC wore their Reservist colors as Hendry EM representatives working out of the Joint Command Post supporting Hendry County EMS, Clewiston Fire, Montura Fire, Pioneer Fire, Hendry Sheriff’s Office, and Clewiston Police.

Incident Command was Clewiston PD’s Lieutenant Aaron Angell, backed by Hendry EM Brian Newhouse KJ4WIC, Hendry EMS Captain Adrian Damms, EM Logistics Chief Cristina Mercado, and E-911 Technician Brandi Frame KN4AFW.

Clewiston began as a work-camp during the construction of the Moore Haven and Clewiston Railroad. The railway was acquired by the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company (ACL) on July 1, 1925. – – Hendry County, Florida. 1920. Black & white photonegative, 4 x 5 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

After the group briefing from Lieutenant Angell, the hams were honored with a personal team briefing outlining their expected duties as support personnel.

KC1FLU set a high bar for net control at the go-box with measured tones, time and station checks, and regular information updates on both the amateurs 446.000 ground frequency, and the local Clewiston 2-meter repeater.

The go-box is a bright yellow Pelican case containing an Alinco DR-635 dual bander and matching 32-amp switched power supply. A Diamond X50A dual-band antenna gets the signal out.

KI4LFF, KM4EWE, and KI4QIQ also set a high performance mark as Rovers, supporting Public Safety teams in the field, and acting as dispatched eyes-on-site for specific areas of the festival.

On three occasions they helped sweep the grounds looking for parents separated from their children, and to help locate a mentally-disabled man for his family. The Rover teams were out the door immediately after a quick briefing, moments after the calls came in for the missing individuals.

They were equipped with County 800-MHz public safety radios for direct communication with the Command Post as well as their UHF amateur communications.

An exercise was planned to simulate a failure of the 800-MHz system. Hams would have been dispatched to the EMS strike teams to act as their communicators. A spike in activity among festival-goers requiring increased attention of Public Safety personnel about the same time led to the decision to postpone the exercise.

KC0SJU wore his Red Cross vest during the festival, manning a responder rehab tent with water and snacks.

Breakfast was served up from St. Martin’s Episcopal Church courtesy of Hendry County EC WA4PAM.

WD4RCC acted as unit leader for the amateur’s participation in the Sugar Festival, to which all the senior members of Joint Command gave high marks for readiness, flexibility, and cooperation with County and City Public Safety staff.

Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Depot – Clewiston. 192?. Black & white photoprint, 8 x 10 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

The takeaways from the deployment were mostly technical. The command post was located in a room that was acoustically highly reflective. The noise level with multiple radios going off simultaneously was taxing the focus of everyone in the room.

Some modifications to the go-box were suggested including a front-firing speaker, or a way to prop the box lid to direct the sound towards the operator. Also, keeping some duct tape in the box to secure power and coaxial cabling to floors and walls in a busy environment.

Unlike February’s Labelle Swamp Cabbage Festival that had the hams exceeding the range limits of handy-talkies on UHF simplex along a two mile parade route, the Clewiston Sugar Festival was more compact, all within nine city blocks. (Think a tic-tac-toe grid.) For this deployment, the large Diamond antenna was overkill. A smaller dual band whip attached to a connector mounted through the go-box would have been sufficient.

by Davis, Wally. Aerial view of Clewiston, Florida. 1958. Black & white photoprint, 4 x 5 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Florida State Parks On The Air

Florida’s award-winning State Parks system offers cultural, archeological, wildlife, and recreational areas; historic sites, and beaches.

Now, add transceivers and antennas! The Lakeland Amateur Radio Club K4LKL is sponsoring the first Florida State Parks On The Air, April 1st 2017.

Most Florida parks open at 8A local, and close at sundown. The operating period of 10A to 6P allows time to enter the park, set up, operate, and tear down in time to leave before park closing.

You are responsible for admission fees and polite behaviour towards other park patrons, See the LARC rules page for details.

Similar to the National Parks On The Air program, FLSPOTA is all about enjoying our hobby in the the beautiful outdoors we have close to home.

Florida State Parks.org has all the details on specific parks, including camping, educational materials, maps, and a list of parks organized by region.

For more information, visit the LARC FLSPOTA page.

2017 Labelle Swamp Cabbage Festival

Swamp Cabbage Festval Logo
Trash Panda Approved!

The Labelle Swamp Cabbage Festival is a February tradition, pulling in more than 6,500 visitors to Hendry County. The 51st edition over the weekend of February 26th and 27th was one of the largest, with over one hundred vendors offering food, drinks, crafts, games, and live music.

Setting up the Big Green Canopy

This year, legacy country band Shenandoah was on the ticket, kicking off their 30th Anniversary Tour, along with two days of entertainment, food, river cruises, food, car shows, and the Swamp Cabbage Parade, Saturday and Sunday, February 25 & 26.

Sheriff’s Lieutenant Billy Griffin briefing EM Reservists

Fifteen members of Big Lake ARC and Hendry CERT worked the Parade Saturday morning, taking assignments at key intersections along the route, and then after the parade, throughout the festival grounds.

KN4AFW performed well as net control, maintaining communications on 446.000 simplex and the local Labelle repeater.

During the parade, one of the Reservists fell ill due to the heat, and the difficulty of moving emergency vehicles through a densely packed parade route was never more clear. A Hendry EMS team checked the Reservist out, and sent him home to rest. Thanks to Belle’s Ice Cream Bar for their hospitality during the action.

A missing child put everyone on alert for a few minutes. KN4AFU and KN4AFV were able to locate the parents within moments of the alert being posted by Sheriff’s dispatch.

Hendry County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Billy Griffin, in a note of appreciation to EM Director Brian Newhouse KJ4WIC, said, “Thank you so much for your assistance during the Swamp Cabbage Festival.  The group of volunteers you have are Top Notch and I enjoyed them immensely .  Please share with them my sincerest Thanks and appreciation for all they did that day to make the 2017 Swamp Cabbage Festival not only successful; but safe as well.  Great job from some even greater people.”

Everglades guide George L. Espenlaub prepares a pot of swamp cabbage (photo circa 1950s). Photo courtesy floridamemory.com.

The takeaway from this event was that 70cm proved to be at the edge of range using handhelds for all functions, including net control at the command post. Future operations will use a higher-powered mobile 70cm at the command post with an external antenna.

“KN” Callsign Curiosity

This past January 21st, three Hendry County Emergency Management Reservists passed the technician test and joined amateur radio as KN4AFU, KN4AFV, and KN4AFW.

With the advent of vanity calls, just about any unused combination is available, so prefixes (the part before the District number) don’t hold the identity they once had.

But, long timers raised an eyebrow this time, since “KN” (and “WN”) calls were what specifically identified a novice licensee in years past.

Licensed for 35 years, Pete “The Greek” Varounis NL7XM, is amateur radio’s callsign historian. He maintains editions of the telephone-directory sized Radio Amateurs Callbook for researching callsign origins and histories for amateurs the world over. Pete played a part in the development of the amateur radio backstory in the ABC-TV sitcom Last Man Standing, by creating authentic callsigns for off-screen radio ham characters in the amateur radio heavy episode, The Fight.

Tim Allen KK6OTD (left), Pete Varounis NL7XM (right) – Photo courtesy NL7XM

So, Pete was clearly the guy to ask about the “KN” curiosity.

He wrote:

The history of US Amateur callsigns series is an enormous topic, complex and full of contradictions.

The new KN4xxx's will likely temporarily be viewed as a moderate curiosity, but real old timers know the FCC has always recycled callsigns and groups. The vanity system is a perfect example of this practice.

There are only a handful of W#xx (a.k.a. "1x2s") alive today who are original holders of those calls. Most have had 4, 5, or more previous holders over the last 60 to nearly 90 years!

The intent of the Novice Class License (introduced in July 1951) was to inspire enthusiasm for the art and science. A one year mandatory expiration provided the catalyst to prompt one to upgrade to Technician or General Class, or start all over again.

Until the late 1970s, these Novices were issued distinctive callsign's with the letter "N" (or later, "V" in some crowded Districts) in the 2nd place of the prefix, right after the "W" or "K" and before the District number. They all had 3-letter suffixes. If you successfully upgraded in time, that "N" was dropped, so KN6ABC became K6ABC, or later in the 70's, maybe even WA6ABC.

The upgrade rate was around 50-60%. Many of those Novice callsigns were recycled only a few years later during the era of the Novice Class campaign.

Although there are still almost 12,000 grandfathered Novice ticket holders today, the "N" designator no longer carries the distinction it once did. It was only a matter of time before the 4th District would get sequentially issued KN4xxx calls after consuming the KM4xxx series.

The unusual (and cool) thing now however, is this hasn't happened on a grand scale for decades!

For example KN4AFW was first issued to 15-year old Novice Chase Hearn around November 1954. Chase is alive and well, still using the upgraded callsign, K4AFW!

Vy 73, PeteTheGreek / NL7XM

Hams wanting to know who had their call before them accounts for 90% of Pete’s research efforts. He’s likely to be very busy for the next few years as the “KN” series works through the alphabet.

2017 Severe Weather Tornado Drill Report

The week of January 23-27, 2017 is the National Weather Services Severe Weather Awareness week in Florida.

On January 25th, at 10:10 AM local, the Miami NWS office issued a practice Tornado Warning alert tone on NOAA Weather Radio and began the drill. Participants were asked to find a safe place to shelter, and post a photo fo themselves to social media.

Hendry County Amateur Radio Emergency Service operators took the opportunity to practice emergency communications by scheduling a Severe Weather Watch exercise net at the same time.

Over the course of thirty minutes, controllers and participants passed exercise messages relating to what they were experiencing at their location.

Amateur radio operators worldwide can be found providing primary and backup communications for municipal agencies and NGO’s during times of crisis.

Big Lake Amateur Radio Club works with Hendry County Emergency Management to provide training and a pool of communicators that can be called up when needed. If you would like more information on amateur radio, emergency communications, or Big Lake ARC, please contact us at biglakearc@gmail.com.

Click on the link below for the exercise final report.

Tornado Drill Final Report 01-29-17

 

Big Lake and Food

You know you’re loud when the other patrons in the restaurant keep giving you looks over their shoulders while they try and have their breakfast.

Thanks to the Log Cabin restaurant in Labelle for hosting our social this morning, and to the 19 hamsters of Big Lake ARC that made a lot of racket. Our two servers were on their game. Well done.

No Club meeting in February. Saturday, February 18, from 10a-230pm is the SKYWARN Training & Refresher at the Hendry County Emergency Operations Center, Labelle.

Saturday February 25, grab your portable and join us and Hendry County CERT for comms at the Swamp Cabbage Festival Parade, Labelle.

March 18th we do it again at the Clewiston Sugar Festival..

“Last Man Standing” Behind The Scenes

Here’s a short video that presents a little of the television program’s set, behind the scenes, particularly the very well equipped ham shack basement of actor Tim Allen’s character. Notice for a while the equipment wasn’t hooked up, and some of it was empty facade boxes. Now, most of it is actually able to be used.

  • h/t to NL7XM; video courtesy jyunte

SKYWARN Training, February 18th

Skywarn

Free Skywarn® spotter training/refresher class!

Saturday, February 18, 2017 – 10a-230pm

Hendry County Emergency Operations Center
4425 West State Road 80, four miles west of Labelle

Call 863-674-5400 to reserve a seat. Seating is limited!

Sponsored by:
National Weather Service
Hendry County Emergency Management

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