Report of Radio Communications Activities during the 50th Anniversary of the Bedford Fall Foliage Festival
October 4th & 5th – 11th & 12th, 2014
The Bedford County Amateur Radio Society (BCARS) provided tactical and promotional communications for the 50th Annual Fall Foliage Festival. The club, which was founded in 1959, is one of the oldest continuously operating amateur radio organizations in the nation. Over 30 members donated over a thousand man hours to the operation during the Fall Foliage Weekends.
During the fair, both cell phone communications and so-called “FRS” radios are taxed to the limits because of the large crowds that descend on Bedford. Using personal UHF, VHF & HF equipment operated, owned and maintained at their expense, BCARS members provided critical communications assistance at every major contact point during the festival including all bus stops, parking facilities, EMS areas and command center. These volunteers worked every hour of the festival on both weekends.
BCARS provided over 35 portable VHF FM radios, two VHF repeating transmitters on Kinton Knob and six HF base stations to the effort. Without the use of these “repeaters”, communications throughout the wide area of the fair would have been impossible. Members also donated antennas, equipment and even a “Gator” tractor to the operations. Two members researched and selected an interference-free VHF frequency and then procured and programmed Ten VHF portable transceivers for use by the Fall Foliage Committee. These units are now being overhauled for use during next year’s festival.
BCARS members were assigned specific locations in order to provide continuous communications with the command post. These locations were manned all four days continuously:
Information Booth – Juliana Street
Command Post – Fort Bedford Park
Bus Stop One
Bus Stop Two
Bus Stop Three
Old Bedford Village Parking
Fair Grounds Parking
Roving Communications and Technical Supervisor
1,115 man hours were donated to the festival by BCARS members. In addition, Mark Leibfreid -KC3CMF of Bedford Springs, donated the use of his John Deere “Gator” type tractor at no expense to the fair. BCARS members also set up a base station for the Information Booth on Juliana and provided the necessary antenna mast, coaxial cable and accessories to make the unit functional.
Several members of our technical committee provided on-site radio adjustments for the Fall Foliage transceivers. During the fair, BCARS volunteers participated in swiftly locating an elderly woman suffering from dementia, two lost children and several items needed for fair operations.
Public Service Recognition
On all four days, the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) of Western Pennsylvania District recognized the Bedford Fall Foliage as a working partner of the National SET (Simulated Emergency Test) which was conducted on festival weekend. This SET Exercise is scheduled every fall and is conducted within eight counties in the Southwestern part of the commonwealth.
As a result, the SET exercise “After Action Report” will recognize the Fall Foliage Festival as the command center of the effort. The Western PA District Two Emergency Coordinator is a BCARS member and a resident of Bedford Borough.
This year, in addition to Bedford County, SET operations were conducted in Mifflin, Huntington, Fulton, Somerset, Blair and Cambria Counties.
In a final and third promotional effort, BCARS promoted a “Special Event Station” during the festival. In addition to six other stations operating from several Bedford County locations, including Manns Choice, Friends Cove, Bedford Township, Bedford Borough, Bedford Springs and Centerville, a special promotional station was set up at the “Command Post” location in Fort Bedford Park. All of these stations promoted the Fall Festival to contacts made in twenty-five states and six foreign countries, including, France, Republic of Czech and Iraq. News of this Special Event Station was published in the October issue of the national amateur radio magazine, QST.
Each member of the Bedford County Amateur Radio Association is licensed by the FCC. Many hold advanced licenses and emergency communications certifications from the Bedford County Department of Emergency Services, PEMA, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. This cadre of trained professionals drill on a regular basis on equipment maintenance, FCC rules, station operation and circuit discipline.
BCARS and Bedford County ARES/RACES is grateful to the committee for providing our group with another annual training platform with which to
practice our emergency communications skills. BCARS is recognized by both FEMA and PEMA as a “critical resource.” We look forward to providing a similar service in 2015.
Lloyd Bankson Roach -K3QNT
Secretary – Bedford County Amateur Radio Society