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Ever since Reginald Fessenden peeped a "Hello" in the Maryland night over a century ago, the invisible, seemingly silent airspace of earth's atmosphere has boomed with the voices of amateur radio operators. Today, these radio amateurs, or "hams," number in the hundreds of thousands worldwide. A bunch of them are gathering — in person — on Saturday for FreeFest, at the Bartlett Station Municipal Center's Banquet Hall.
Though hams will be legion at FreeFest, jawing jargon to each other, the uninitiated are encouraged to attend. There will be seminars, Amateur Radio License Examinations, information on ham radio, raffles and prizes, and a flea market to get you properly outfitted, whether you're obsessed, a hobbyist, a dabbler, or just ham-curious.
The event is produced by the Memphis Area Radio Association and is sanctioned by the Amateur Radio Relay League. Passing an exam is required to become a licensed radio amateur — this ain't Pump Up the Volume, you know. Of course, once you're licensed, you get your very own ultra-cool callsign. And, as of this year, you don't even have to know Morse code to get certified.
FreeFest costs what you'd expect, and proceeds from the no-charge-entry raffles go to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Also, organizers say "Talk-In 146.28/88 Repeater — no tone," whatever that means.
FreeFest, Bartlett Station Municipal Center, 5868 Stage, Saturday, April 14th, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. For more information, call Tony Brignole WA4KHN at 372-2738.