Amateur radio operators gather at the Expo

Apr. 13—Ham radios were once a vital means of communication around the world, until telephones and then the internet arrived — but they still offer public service, while many have fun interacting with one another.

In Claremore, today (Saturday, April 13), Green Country Hamfest 2024 is underway. Ham radio operators and curious visitors alike can take part in what organizers call the "largest ham radio festival in Oklahoma." It is happening at the Claremore Expo Center, Veterans Parkway. Tickets are $10.

The event began Friday evening, opens Saturday at 8 a.m. and continues until 3 p.m.

Visitors can explore a showcase of the latest technology in amateur radio operations and a large selection of vendors with booths filled with radios and accessories.

On-site FCC amateur radio license exams are available, as well as a swap meet and flea market for equipment, both new and used, and an option to test it before buying it.

Next week, April 18-19, radio amateurs all over the world will have a gathering of voices as they celebrate World Amateur Radio Day, commemorating the founding of the International Amateur Radio Union in Paris, in 1925.

During the two-day global event, radio amateurs are invited to take to the airwaves to enjoy "our global friendship with other amateurs, and to show our skills and capabilities to the public," the NAAR website states.

The theme for this year is "A Century of Connections: Celebrating 100 years of Amateur Radio Innovation, Community, and Advocacy."

Bill Schiller lived in Tahlequah for 31 years and worked as a professor of psychology at Northeastern State University. After he retired 10 years ago, Schiller moved to Colorado. He has plans to return to Tahlequah soon.

"I've been a licensed [operator] since 1961 when I was 15 years old. I could talk to Europe and Africa before there was even a transatlantic telephone cable," Schiller said. "It's still a hobby of mine."

Schiller said there are "ham radio nets," and before the internet and email, hams used to handle messages for folks needing to contact people in places where no phones were available.

"In high school, during the Vietnam War, we would set up in a major department store in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania — where I lived at the time — and people would fill out radiograms and via radio, get those to Vietnam, Germany — the troops over there," Schiller said. "There are still local nets with a bunch of people from Arkansas and Tahlequah and Missouri, and I still get on there."

Schiller was a storm spotter in Cherokee County in disaster management and would coordinate via radio with the Tulsa weather service.

"In Colorado, it is used mostly for search and rescue in the mountains because there is no cell service up in these mountains," Schiller said.

Gary Way lives in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, and he's in the emergency management aspect of the hobby and does storm spotting.

"We do 'after the event' communications," Way said. "It's like we always say, 'When everything else doesn't work, we still talk.'"

After a tornado hit Seminole, Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management sent the club members to help with the clean up because the telephone system wasn't working, Way said.

"We put one person with each work team, another person with the radio and somebody running notes to city management to keep them updated," Way said.

How storm spotting works is, an operator speaks to a "repeater" and the machine repeats it out over the air. Those in cars doing the spotting can communicate back to the repeater, Way said.

"Anybody with a radio can tune into that frequency and can find out what's going on," Way said.

"The only problem is, it's a huge footprint and so there are a zillion people listening. So you have to be selective on what you talk about," Way said.

The Shawnee club has been around for 76 years. Way said his neatest experience was working with Tecumseh High School's technology department and making arrangements for the students to talk with the International Space Station.

"We learned how to do tracking programs so we could keep the antennae aimed at the satellite," Way said. "On the third try, we were able to talk with them and the kids got to ask questions of the [astronauts], and it was fun."

Gary Courtney said on the TDP Facebook page that there are requirements before a person can become a ham operator.

"You must study for, and pass, a Federal Communications Commission test in order to legally use a transmitter. Upon passing the test, you will receive your license and unique call letters of your short wave station," Courtney said. "You will also be expected to follow a strict protocol — and manners — while on the air."


Learn more: Visit to learn more about how to participate in the worldwide celebration. To learn more about the Claremore Ham Fest visit