Saturday, August 7, 2010

Montana's Glacier-Waterton Hamfest

The 2010 Glacier-Waterton Hamfest
 According to the documentation on their website, the Glacier-Waterton hamfest is the oldest continually running hamfest in the world.  This year they celebrated their 76th event which is quite an accomplishment considering that during World War II, there was essentially no amateur radio.  During those years, they held the hamfest anyway, just because the event has always had a greater purpose than simply swapping gear and going home.

The attendees include hams from Montana and quite a few from Canada.  The Canadian side of Glacier National Park is called Waterton hence the name Glacier-Waterton hamfest.  It is truly an international event with a great many friends from both sides of the border.

I must say that I've been to many hamfests and this one is by far the most unique that I've ever attended.  What sets it apart from all the others that I've known is an atmosphere of family and friends for whom the gathering itself is much more important that the swapmeet, the seminars, or the club meetings.  Many of the attendees have been attending the event for most if not all of their adult life and there were several father and son / mother and daughter pairings to meet.  The brotherhood of amateur radio is truly a family affair in Montana and these were among some of the nicest folks I've ever met. 

One of the many rows of Ham campers
I didn't get a chance to count them but there were at least 100 campers, camp trailers, motor homes and a even a few tents at the gathering.  There were kids playing in the meadows, people riding on 4-wheelers, and folks just sitting in the shade enjoying the fantastic mountain air.  The temperatures were in the mid to high 70's throughout the event, dropping down to the 50's at night.  It was so nice not to have to use air conditioning when we slept, something we hadn't experienced at all since we left Phoenix a few days earlier.  It was truly a little piece of heaven, and a wonderful place to enjoy the company of other hams.

A beautifully crafted spark gap transmitter reproduction.

I really love swap meets.  I love old and new radios, and junk of all kinds.  I will often spend hours just looking at tables and tail gates full of equipment and talking to the people that are selling their gear.  G-W, however, wasn't that kind of place.  There were a few swap tables, one or two here and there, but overall, there were far fewer than one might expect.  I'd say 50% of the attendees didn't even setup a swap table.  Nobody seemed to mind, however, and there was plenty of cheap, and even free stuff if you had to fill the urge to go home with something.  But again, this hamfest isn't about the swap meet, it's about family and friends.

I gave my presentation on The History of QRZ to a packed audience.  Everybody wanted to hear about QRZ and it was a great pleasure to meet and talk to the them .  In years past, several commercial vendors, some from as far away as Portland, Oregon, would attend.  This year, however, QRZ was the only commercial entity that showed up we were enthusiastically received and treated like royalty.  We were taken aback by their warm and generous hospitality.

Saturday night was host to two big events, a pot luck dinner followed by a live band that played into the night.  There were substantial libations and Robin and I were treated to generous portions, so much so that finding our motor home in the dark became somewhat challenging.  All turned out well, however, and we slept well, awaking to a wonderful breakfast gathering with hot egg burritos that were delicious.

If you have a camper or even a tent, and you ever get the chance, the G-W hamfest should be on your must-attend list of great summer gatherings for amateur radio.  For more information, see their website,

We hope to attend again next year.  Thanks to all our hosts for the wonderful experience.


  1. Sounds like fun to me Fred. I've been bitten by the RV bug so unless I can shake it off, I just may have to buy an RV and attend after we return to Colorado from England. Operating from the UK, it's interesting that most foreign calls I hear (and QSO) are on

  2. I'm not sure why I became "The Other Scoutmaster Handbook" during my post, but I am WQ8M / M0GNK!

  3. "The Other Scoutmaster Handbook", when you post here on the Blog, it uses your Google name.