McDowell Amateur Radio Association (MARA), of 29 North Garden Street, Marion, participated in an annual Field Day hosted by the American Radio Relay League, a noncommercial organization of radio amateurs across the U.S. Thirteen members in McDowell County worked for 24 hours around the clock to make as many contacts across North America as possible. One participant sent Morse code for the entire 24 hours.

MARA board member Joey Hemphill hosted the event at his Skyport communications center at his home. He said the group made just over 1,000 contacts in every state, including some in Canada and across the ocean.

“Field Day is designed for clubs and individuals to get together and put their equipment together in a short period of time, ideally to simulate an emergency,” said Hemphill.

This year, the group had an issue with their computer’s logging system, but still had 1,000 watts of power transmitting from two stations in the 24-hour period.

“We took shifts and we would sit down and operate for about an hour a piece. We had more operators than we had stations to accommodate,” said Hemphill.

The club members participate in amateur radio mainly as a hobby, but they do help out with many of the cycling races around western North Carolina. The group also has an antenna on Grant’s Mountain where the county emergency communications are set up. They are equipped to handle communications during emergencies if the need ever exists.

Hemphill, in his own time, has contacted other radios from all over the world on almost every continent.

“We are not as worried about the results of Field Day. We just want to get together and have fun and meet each other’s families. Last year, we were rated number three in the nation for our class. It is a possibility for us to win if we can eliminate some of our issues,” he said.

Folks interested in learning about amateur radio, can visit their website at Other information can be found at MARA meets the second Tuesday of every month.

To check out a video of Hemphill making a contact to a radio in Texas, click on videos at

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