The Mississippi Valley Amateur Radio Association (MVARA) fielded a team to the parking lot of a local TV station to take part in the Minnesota QSO Party over the February 7 – 8 weekend. Not only did the group get some emergency exercise training but garnered positive publicity for amateur radio from the station’s news team. Using special event call sign W0M, 10 radio amateurs — including one newly minted General-class ham who’s still awaiting his call sign — pitched in. The operation took place in an emergency communications bus, with everything set up like a Field Day operation, although in the Minnesota winter.
“MVARA recently acquired a full-sized emergency communications bus that needed some TLC,” said Scott Neader, KA9FOX — one of the operators. “The club has been refurbishing it over the last year and was looking for an opportunity to operate from the bus to test out some of the recent improvements, as well as to test our ability to set up a viable HF communications center in less-than-ideal conditions. Operating the Minnesota QSO party looked like a fun way to test things out.” Neader said the sub-zero weather didn’t make things easy, especially with respect to set-up and tear-down process.
A club member works at television station WXOW in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, which has its tower and studios at a high location in Houston County, Minnesota. That was the “in” to obtain permission to set up in the station’s parking lot. “As a bonus to operating at the TV station, the news department couldn’t resist checking out what we were doing, and we wound up being a part of the 10 PM news broadcast,” Neader said.
The group set up two operating positions, and given the cold temperatures, they went with dipoles for 80, 40, and 20 meters, up about 20 – 35 feet.
The group experienced a few computer and radio issues that needed to be worked out after the contest started. “[T]his was expected and, of course, part of the reason for our participation, but it did cause us to be off the air for some brief periods.”
Judging from the statistics the club posted on 3830.com, the operation was a great success. “We had a blast and are looking forward to more operations like this, as well as being able to use the communications bus as a mobile tool to educate students and the general public about amateur radio…and to support our communities with any emergency communication needs, as they may arise,” Neader said.
The W0M team claimed 203,392 points, with 381 contacts in 57 US states and Canadian provinces and 54 out of 87 Minnesota counties in 10 hours of CW, SSB, and digital operation.
The team’s Bill Kleinschmidt, N9FDE, said an excursion for the Wisconsin QSO Party may be the club’s next adventure.