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Hamfest marks 61 years on Labor Day weekend

Sixty-one years - that's how long the Shelby Hamfest has been held. It was 1957 when the Shelby Amateur Radio Club hosted its first festival at Brackett's Cedar Park in Lawndale with about 300 in attendance. Through the years the event grew and expanded until in the 1990s attendance reached around 10,000. By then it had been moved to the Cleveland County Fairgrounds, 1751 E. Marion Street, in Shelby. And that is where the 61st annual Shelby Hamfest will be held Sept. 1-3, 2017.
"The Hamfest is an event where amateur radio vendors and manufacturers display and sell their latest products," says Tom Forgas, 2017 Hamfest chairman. "There is also a flea market for folks to sell their used equipment, antique radios and crafts."
For many people the Hamfest is an annual tradition, Forgas says. "We have campers that begin arriving a week ahead of time to visit and fellowship with other attendees."
Although attendance has declined in recent years, the Shelby Hamfest remains the largest in the Amateur Radio Relay League Roanoke Division (North & South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia), and is still one of the largest such events on the entire East Coast.
In addition to the vendor displays, there will also be a series of forums on Saturday, Sept. 2. Topics range from "Engaging the Next Generation of Amateurs" to "Overview of 'Satellite Basics.'" For a complete listing of forum topics and times, visit www.shelbyhamfest.com/forum.
Admission to the three-day event is $10 at the gate and is good for all three days. Children 12 and under can attend for free.
Part of the proceeds from the Hamfest go towards maintenance and upkeep of the Shelby Amateur Radio Club's six repeaters. These repeaters would provide communication services to Cleveland County Emergency Management and other service agencies, such as the American Red Cross, if a disaster disabled normal means of communication. The rest of the proceeds from the Hamfest are donated to local charities. Last year more than $5,000 was donated to the Cleveland County Life Enrichment Center, the Salvation Army, the Cleveland Community College Foundation, the Cleveland/Rutherford Kidney Association, Crossroads Rescue Mission, the Tim Brackeen family and the Polio Foundation (Rotary International), among others.
For more information about the festival, visit the website at www.shelbyhamfest.org, email chairman@shelbyhamfest.org or call 980-295-5151.

By April Hoyle Shauf

Special to Community First Media

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