Chris Perrine was about 10 years old when his grandfather showed him the world of ham radio.
“He showed me his radio stations and told me all about it. I was hooked,” Perrine said.
In high school, he got his own operating license to get on the air. Forty years later, he’s still at it and now president of the Skyline Amateur Radio Club.
On Saturday, ham radio enthusiasts like Perrine will gather at the Marathon Civic Center for the biannual Hamfest.
“The hamfest is basically like a flea market kind of thing, where people can buy and sell radios and computer parts,” said club Treasurer Patrick Dunn.
What: Skyline Amateur Radio Club Hamfest
When: 7 a.m. to noon Saturday
Where: Marathon Civic Center, 16 Brink St., Marathon
Details: $5 admission. Masks are required while indoors.
Want to join? The Skyline Amateur Radio Club meets at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month at the Cortlandville Masonic Lodge. Newcomers are welcome to stop by.
His first hamfest was nearly 30 years ago, when he was first getting started in amateur radio.
In ham radio, you use computers to communicate — hook it up to your radio and you can communicate with people all over the world by voice or even Morse code, Dunn said.
“A lot of people today wonder what’s the point, since everybody’s got social media, the internet and cell phones,” Perrine said.
“What I like to tell people is it’s just a totally different experience putting your own station together, and there’s a magic behind talking to someone across the world without the use of wires.”
The club expects at least 150 ham radio enthusiasts to attend the event, Dunn said.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing people I haven’t seen in a while, or meeting folks I’ve talked to on the radio and finally putting a face to their voice,” Perrine said. “It’s always nice to meet new people, too, and I guess I just look forward to the camaraderie.”
Expect 30 tables of vendors, featuring a range of radio gear, computer pieces and even one craft vendor.
“People are selling all sorts of things. Ham radio operators are people who are very resourceful — they can repurpose lots of things,” Dunn said. “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and sometimes people sell stuff they just don’t need anymore after upgrading their equipment at home.”
Dunn said the proceeds from admission and vendor fees will go toward equipment restoration, such as the club’s recent $4,500 endeavor to revamp radio repeaters in Cortland, improving the local radio antenna system to expand the reach of Cortland County.
This will be the first hamfest since before the COVID-19 pandemic, and all guests and vendors will be required to wear their masks while inside the civic center. There will be no food or drink for sale this year due to safety restrictions.
“The club members decided to make that call because we don’t want to encourage people taking their masks down since it’s not a huge building — mask-wearing is key,” Dunn said.
Dunn said he’s looking forward to Saturday’s event just to chat with his fellow hams.
“We’ve all been shut in now for well over a year, and we were one of the few clubs in New York to host a hamfest last summer,” Dunn said. “People were really missing it. You can go on eBay and buy your stuff, but it’s just not the same as getting together haggling the price and trying out what you’re getting before you take it home.”