It’s a contest, social event and public awareness program rolled into a 24-hour ham radio celebration.
Since 1933, amateur radio enthusiasts have gathered the last week in June to connect around the world for the annual American Radio Relay League Field Day.
In Forsyth County, fans of the ham will meet up at their new field day location at a Fowler Park pavilion beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The ham radio operators will be the first to spend the night at a non-camping county park, having received permission to do so.
The group had held its past few field days at the Cumming Fairgrounds.
Members decided that shifting to a park would maximize exposure, said Randal DePriest, president of the Sawnee Amateur Radio Association.
"They can see what the hobby’s all about and how we give back to the community," DePriest said.
In the case of an emergency, like the spring tornadoes, he said, ham radios will always work, even when other communication devices may be out of commission.
To spark the interest of visitors, the group also invites folks to try out the radio for themselves.
On the other end, it could be a grandfather in Texas or an astronaut at the International Space Station, as evidenced by some past field days.
"It’s like fishing. You never know who you’re going to get," DePriest said.
The group tends to find more contacts when children try out the radio, local ham operator Jerry Adams said.
Adams estimated that about 400 people in the county are certified operators and about 100 actively stay on the radios. Most of them are men.
"What happens is of all these thousands of hams on the radio, all you hear is these male voices," Adams said. "So when your hear kids’ voices or a girl’s voice, everybody wants to talk to them because it’s different."
Attracting contacts is important because the American Radio Relay League recognizes groups for certain achievements within their category.
In the past two years, the group in Forsyth County has gained the most number of contacts, DePriest said.
Contacts share their call number, classification and state, he said.
Though the competition keeps members and kids interested during the 24-hour field day, DePriest said, it’s also an exercise for the hobbyists.
"We’re practicing our skills in communications too," he said. "One of the things you want to do in an emergency situation is pass information as quickly and accurately as you can, and that’s what we’re doing here."