Bootstrapping ham radio’s biggest event for a hundred bucks…

Since 1952 Hamvention® has been sponsored by Dayton Amateur Radio Association (DARA). For many years it has been the world’s largest amateur radio gathering, attracting hams from throughout the globe.

About 1950, John Willig, W8ACE, had asked the Dayton Amateur Radio Association to sponsor a Ham Convention but was turned down. John wanted to have a quality affair. Speakers and prizes would be a drawing point. John finally found a champion in Frank Schwab, W8YCP (W8OK), the newly elected president of the club.

A meeting was held and the DARA Board allocated $100 to get started. The first organizational meeting was held in January 1952. The Southwestern Ohio Hamvention was born.

The next year the name became “Dayton Hamvention®” and was registered as a trademark. April was determined to be the best time but the Biltmore Hotel, in downtown Dayton was booked. March 22 was the chosen date, causing a short lead time. How far did $100 go? Not far! A 12″ TV was raffled off to help raise funds.

The FCC agreed to give license exams and Phil Rand, W1BDM, a pioneer in TVI elimination was on the program. First prize, a Collins 75A2, was purchased locally. Hoping for 300 visitors, the committee was amazed that over 600 showed up!

There were 7 exhibitors and 6 forums. The ladies program was successful with a luncheon at the Biltmore and a trip to a local TV station. In 1955 the Awards Program began with the “Amateur of the Year.”

The Flea Market has grown from 200 to more than 2000 spaces. In 1964 the Hamvention® moved to Hara Arena. Shuttle buses and handicapped parking were added in 1969. In 1973 it became a 2-day event with Sundays added in 1974.

The event moved from Hara Arena to the Greene County Fairgrounds in Xenia, Ohio in 2017. The official attendance for the first show in Xenia was 29,296.