The signal was strong and clear at the Texas Broadcasting Museum Saturday, and more than 150 people tuned in for the first ham radio and electronics tailgate swap meet in Kilgore.
Organized by the Longview East Texas Amateur Radio Club, the event at Kilgore’s newest museum was well-underway as the sun rose over downtown Kilgore, with more than 20 ham radio enthusiasts taking a space in the parking lot of Chuck Conrad’s 416 E. Main Street venue.
In the next few hours, ham radio aficionados were in a bustling buy-sell-trade mode as they sought deals on new, vintage and hard-to-find electronics. Reached via the airwaves, visitors came to Kilgore for the event from as far as Minden, Lousiana to the east and Fort Worth to the west.
“This is not your grandfather’s ham radio,” said LETARC President Jim Quinn. “We’re attracting a lot of new people for the various things we can do with it … The young crowd likes the computer communications.”
The ham radio network owns 62 satellites in orbit, Quinn noted, but the enthusiasts aren’t forgetting their roots.
“We talk to the International Space Station on a daily basis,” he said, and at the same time, “We still have the guys that tap out messages in Morse Code.
“It’s a lot of things to a lot of different people. We attract a broad range of individuals.”
The men and women descending on the Texas Museum of Broadcasting & Communications left with a broad range of items this weekend, ranging from towering antennas to brassware mechanisms to new-in-package radios and more than a few not-quite-working pieces ready to be harvested for parts.
They found what they were looking for in Kilgore, says TxMBC Marketing Director Janice Connor.
“It just looked like everybody was satisfied,” she added. “It looked like the people that came and shopped were happy.”
She was doubly-pleased with the number of swap meet visitors who also took a turn through the broadcast museum.
“We had no idea, really, what to expect. It was interesting,” Connor said. “What I liked was seeing all these people in our building. Walking around. There were enough people that it was a steady crowd.”
The kick-off swap meet was a pretty big success, Conrad said, especially for a first-ever event.
The event and venue complement each other: “We had a banner day for the museum. It was, other than when we have a group come through, probably the most individuals we’ve had in a day,” he added, a busy day and a good one. “I think the amateur radio folks think so too.
“They want to do another one again in the fall and so do I. They’ll get bigger and better.”
Learn more about the amateur radio club at LETARC.org and the museum at TxMBC.org.