Saturday 31st October 2009 started off better than most and the sun was shinning. It felt good to be alive. I had a wallet full of money and we were headed for the North Wales radio rally at Llandudno. I hoped to meet loads of on air friends and perhaps put a face to some call signs that I had never met other than on the air. It helped that I had a most enjoyable evening out with some of the local amateurs the night before at the Royal Oak in Higher Kinnerton. I had an excellent meal washed down with a couple of pints of Black Sheep ale. There were fifteen of us and everyone seemed to have enjoyed the evening.
I had a shopping list but it was for the Mold & District Radio Club. I had my own money to spend but I did not really know what I wanted. The main item on the club’s list was a new 2m/70cms collinear to replace a wind and water damaged one that had resisted my attempts to repair it. On entering the rally one of the first people I met was a club member Ron 2W0BLG who said he had an antenna the club could have, so no need for wasting funds on a new one just yet. I purchased a few dipole centres and end insulators so we can have some antenna making sessions at the club and some small pulleys so that we can raise and lower the wire antennas with a lanyard as we need to. The only thing I bought for myself was a 8GB compact flash card for my digital SLR camera.
I was surprised that although there appeared to be more people at the rally than last year I saw less people I knew. I went both days last time and last year Sunday was poorly attended but a lot of folks I spoke to this year said they would be there on the Sunday so hopefully things will have evened out and Sunday will see similar numbers to Saturday. As a guess I would say attendance and stallholders were both up by about 10% on last year but still well short of former glories. We seemed to be missing the Irish contingent that used to arrive by the coach load off the boat from Holyhead and spend lots of money, but I notice from RSGB news that the Foyle & District ARC rally was taking place at Best Western White Horse Hotel, Derry on Sunday so maybe they went there instead.
The rally was much improved on most rallies in recent years by the lack of stalls selling fudge, knitted baby wear and computer bits. No sign of the guys selling dodgy CD’s full of stuff you can download free of the Internet either. There was still a few amusing items on sale such as a World War II silk parachute which had avoided being made into a wedding dress for some GI bride. One stall had a baking tray with cookie cutters in the shape of the letters of the alphabet that might have been good if it included numbers so we could have baked call signs biscuits.
The big dealers Waters & Stanton and Radioworld were at either end of the hall but may have lost out to a number of potential sales due to not having the big Icoms on display. One well heeled station I spoke to was interested in the £6,500+ IC-7800 and another was keen to see the £3,300+ IC-7600, he even had his Kenwood TS2000X in the boot of his car hoping for a part exchange deal.
Just like last year there was nobody selling coaxial cables or twin feeder unless you wanted some cheap and nasty RG58. I have been after some very thin low loss coax for my portable operations for some time but have been reluctant to pay the stupid postal costs required for such heavy items as 100m reels of coax.
The canteen that is run by staff employed by the centre was a minor annoyance. There were as many people behind the counter as in front of it, but no one seemed to be doing anything and even when we got to the front of the queue it took fifteen minutes to get served. Some people who only wanted to pay for a cold drink from the self- service fridge stood in line as we did for 45 minutes. At any one time there was no more than 15 people in the queue. How on earth they cope with hundreds of screaming kids on school days I do not know.
Last year I had a big list and failed to get most of it. This year I got what I wanted for the radio club but failed to be tempted to spend anything on myself. Maybe next year I will be tempted to buy something a bit more substantial than a handful of PL259's as long as the big dealers are there and have the IC-9100 or something similar with them.
I really hope this rally continues, as most of the best ones seem to have gone. It is not that long ago we could have been at a radio rally every weekend and I would probably have attended six or seven in a year. The UK rally scene seems to be hanging on by its finger tips for grim death and I do not wish for it to be just a dim memory of good times. In the case of Llandudno I feel more and better publicity might just help and the same may be true for other rallies. The ball is in everyone's court so if there is an event spread the word by what ever means.
I hear lots of people say that the reason they stay away from rallies is that they refuse to pay to get in and spend money, but the same people pay money to park at shopping malls and are prepared to pay postage on items ordered via the Internet or telephone sales. Surely the more people that attend the less the organisers have to charge us and if the dealers make enough money then they are prepared to come back and even pay more for their stalls. The main dealers will tell you they do not make money doing rallies, and that if they even break even it is a bonus, they do it to maintain a public face. Lots of volunteers put in long unpaid hours and weeks of work so these events to go ahead and tend to get nothing but flack as a result. Please support you local radio rallies because like the amateur bands themselves if we do not use them we could soon loose them.