The Beaver Valley Amateur Radio Association, a "ham radio" club in Beaver County, is turning 90 years old this month, and radio operators from all over the world are invited to join in on the celebration.
In honor of the anniversary, the club will be holding an on-air "Special Event Station" under the ham radio call sign W3SGJ from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday on the 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meter ham radio bands.
Club members will receive many on-air calls from other amateur radio operators, or hams, throughout the United States and Canada and, if atmospheric conditions are favorable, they expect to receive calls of congratulations from around the world.
"I'm hopeful that we'll get 400 to 700 contacts," said Rich Soltesz, trustee for the radio association.
Mr. Soltesz said he expects that one-half to two-thirds of the calls will come in from operators within the United States and Canada, with the remaining from the Caribbean, Europe, South America and the South Pacific.
A commemorative QSL card, or ham radio contact verification card, will be sent to all received and confirmed radio contacts. The card features photos of various Beaver Valley club activities on the front and an aerial photo of the town of Beaver including the Beaver and Ohio Rivers on the back.
In addition, the club will award an 8-by-10 certificate to any ham who makes contact on more than one band or on more than one mode -- including voice, Morse code and one or more of the newer digital modes.
Amateur radio operators are required to take a license exam before they can go on-air. Once they pass, Mr. Soltesz said operators are entitled to many privileges by the Federal Communications Commission, including transmitting on a number of different frequencies, such as high frequencies for worldwide communications and shorter range VHS and UHS frequencies for local communications.
Operators can even communicate with shuttle astronauts or bounce signals off the moon.
Mr. Soltesz said he loves to communicate with people all over the world and "rag chew," or sit around and talk to people about anything and everything. To date, he has personally contacted operators in more than 190 countries.
Through the website www.qrz.com, Mr. Soltesz said he can enter the call letters of the people he contacts and view biographical information about them.
"It is amazing," he said. "As I'm talking to the person, I can see a picture of them or their family or an article about some of their hobbies and activities."
Grant Miller, newsletter editor for the group, said he enjoys contacting people as well and often connects with other operators through special on-air events, such as the one Saturday.
"It's basically just a gigantic networking opportunity and you get to talk to other amateur radio operators," he said. "It's a real bonding experience."
The Beaver Valley group is one of the oldest amateur radio clubs in Western Pennsylvania, with a history of helping the community in times of emergency such as during floods, tornadoes and power failures.
The special event Saturday is one of many the club holds throughout the year, including a corn roast in August and a Christmas dance in December.
In addition to regular meetings, club members also host a field day in June, during which ham operators simulate emergency conditions by operating in a portable mode with radio equipment.
For more information, visit www.W3SGJ.org.
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.