Back to camera but wearing a face mask, Jim Krentzel, call sign KE0GEY, stretches his arms as he waits for Jim Andera, K0NK, to finish giving instructions on logging contacts to Charlotte Hoverder, KC0YT, before resuming his efforts during Field Day to hook up with other amateur radio operators from the front porch of the historic Ensor home. Both Krentzel and Andera live in Gardner. Photo courtesy of Rick Nichols


Rick Nichols
Special to The Gardner News
Playing as it were with the proverbial cards they had been dealt, some members of the Santa Fe Trail Amateur Radio Club converged on Ensor Park and Museum in south Olathe over the weekend for Field Day 2020, the annual exercise sponsored by the American Radio Relay League to give amateur radio operators, or “hams,” a chance to test their readiness to rapidly respond to an actual emergency.
Of course, because of the coronavirus pandemic, America has basically been in emergency mode ever since mid-March, when schools and businesses began closing and millions of people started working from home in an effort to limit the spread of the deadly disease. So in that sense, the SFTARC operators were already thinking “emergency” when they arrived at the eight-acre complex along 183rd Street to participate in Field Day, a two-day event.
During the past three and a half months, Americans have been encouraged to wear face masks while they are out in public, to frequently wash their hands with soap and water, and to practice “social distancing” as much as possible. And this “theme,” if you will, was continued over the weekend at Ensor, where the SFTARC operators were expected to wear a mask whenever they were near another person, hand sanitizers were ever present, the wiping down of often-touched surfaces with isopropyl alcohol was done now and then, and the chairs and tables occupied by the caller and the logger were positioned at least six feet apart.
Moreover, the operators were encouraged to use their own headphones instead of reusing the same headphones over and over, and the buffet-style catered meals that have been part and parcel of the club’s Field Day experience in the past were eliminated in favor of having everyone bring their own food and drink if food and drink were to be desired at some point. In addition, everyone who showed up on the grounds was expected to sign an attendance sheet and provide relevant contact information just in case either a “ham” or a visitor were to test positive for the coronavirus later on.
Jim Andera, call sign K0NK, and Jim Krentzel, KE0GEY, both of Gardner, were among those who ‘braved’ their way to Ensor to contact as many other “hams” as possible using the SFTARC call sign, KS0KS. Operating on the 20-meter band (14 to 14.35 MHz) at the Ensor home, with Krentzel calling and Andera logging, the pair registered several voice contacts over a two-hour period, including a “ham” in New York, one in New Hampshire and one in Vermont. Roughly 100 feet away, a third Jim, Jim Anderson, AC0OW, worked alone under a canopy on the front lawn in trying to navigate the crowded daytime airways to reach other “hams” on the 15-meter band (21 to 21.45 MHz).
“It went great,” said Krentzel, who will be a sophomore at Gardner-Edgerton High School this fall, when asked afterward how the middle part of the afternoon had gone.
Andera, Krentzel’s mentor, or “Elmer,” was impressed with his partner’s effort, saying he “faced a lot of competition from other stronger stations around the country” but had “hung in there and got the job done.”
The son of Troy and Sarah Krentzel, Krentzel has been a licensed amateur radio operator for roughly five years and currently holds a General license.
Earlier, Andera said the club would be setting up a six-meter (50 to 54 MHz) station later in the day, and that evening, Marty Peters, KE0PEZ, arrived to operate a station in a non-voice mode, continuous wave (i.e., Morse code). He reported Sunday that he was able to make approximately 35 contacts, three on the 15-meter band and the rest on the 40-meter band (7 to 7.3 MHz).
Meanwhile, other members of the Olathe-based club were hunkered down in their homes for Field Day, because thanks to a recent decision by the ARRL tied to the pandemic, operators across the nation could stay at home amidst familiar surroundings, ‘surf’ the airways in search of possible contacts and report the contacts they made to the ARRL later, thus adding to their clubs’ score for competition purposes. A win-win situation for everyone!
For more information about the local club, visit www.sftarc.org, and for more information about the ARRL, visit www.arrl.org