Special Event Stations—Your Ticket to Special Ham Radio Fun

Hams are always looking for ways to enjoy more radio time. In addition, there are plenty of civic-minded folks among our ranks. A sure-fire way to help celebrate a special occasion for your city or club is with a special event station.  

Special event stations have almost no requirements. They can occur at any time, on any band, and for any reason. You don’t have to travel far to pull one off, and you can even organize them to be done at a home station if you wish. Since a special event can be for any reason, you can do almost anything with them as long as you stay within the guidelines of your ham radio license and FCC regulations. They can be a great way to raise visibility of ham radio in your community and show off your skills to local officials. Or you can keep it private and simply enjoy the fun.

The Possibilities Are Endless

There are thousands of ways you can set up a special event station:

  • Anniversaries are always a great idea. Tack on a special event station along with the anniversary of when your city or county was established, when a celebrity visited your area, the occurrence of an event of local or national significance, etc.
  • Events such as a parade, county fair, street festival, visiting convention, or any kind of exposition can be occasion for a special event station.
  • The creation of a competition makes for a fun event—for example, a week-long effort to have ham radio from each of your city’s parks. Have hams around the country try to make contact with as many parks in your city as possible. It’s a great activity for a good-sized club.
  • Tie in your activity with local Maker or Science events. For example, a special event doing VHF/UHF meteor scatter on FT8 during a local astronomy club’s star party or gathering to observe a meteor shower is a match made in heaven!

Use your imagination!

Special Calls

While it’s not required, the use of a special 1×1 callsign—such as W9R or K1T—adds a bit of extra visibility to your special event operation. 1×1 callsigns are available in two-week periods, and a special application needs to be filled out to request one. Try to come up with a call that references the event itself. Local wine festival? Apply for W1N. Is the children’s science center celebrating an anniversary? Try K1D. You get the idea.

The New Jersey Emergency Communications Team held a special event on February 11 as N2I to honor National Inventors’ Day. They set up shop at Thomas Edison State Park, where Edison invented several important items. The site also counted as K-1615 for the Parks On The Air awards program. (Image courtesy of the New Jersey Emergency Communications Team)

The Livonia Amateur Radio Club of Livonia, Michigan, has a special event station every year to honor the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald on the anniversary of its sinking in Lake Superior. (Image courtesy of the Livonia Amateur Radio Club)

Promote It!

There are lots of hams looking for special event stations, so be sure to maximize the number of contacts you make by promoting your special event! ARRL has a page for you to list your special event station, so make sure it’s on that list. Consider creating a Facebook page for your event as well. If your event is tied to an existing local event, be sure to mention the ham radio event on the main event’s website or social media channels. More visibility is always good.

You can even offer a special certificate or QSL card for those who contact you. There are lots of “paper chasers” out there who enjoy collecting certificates from special event stations. Make a nice certificate suitable for framing and ask for a donation to cover the cost of printing and postage, or perhaps a self-addressed stamped envelope. Try not to fold the certificate if possible; the creases don’t look so good.

Being a special event station is a great way of being on the Other Side of the Pileup without having to engage in extensive travel or spend lots of money. They are easy to set up, with no one way to pull off your operation, and are lots of fun as an individual pursuit or club activity. They can help highlight your community or local history and build relationships with civic and served agency representatives if you wish.

Check out these resources from the ARRL to help make your special event operation a success:

ARRL Special Event Listing Form: Use this online form to register your special event and have it listed on the ARRL calendar.

ARRL 1×1 Callsign Resources: ARRL can help you request a 1×1 callsign for your special event operation. Also provides a great FAQ on 1×1 calls.

ARRL Special Events Calendar: A searchable listing of upcoming special events.

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