State QSO Parties come in all shapes and sizes but the intent is always the same — to stir up activity on the air and to have fun in the process! Approach these as serious contest activities or as a casual event punctuated by a little scorekeeping. Your choice. There are plenty of reasons to participate, but if you need more convincing, allow me to share with you five GREAT reasons why you should get in the party line!
- It’s good practice for big contests. You get a chance to see how your station performs, and identify your weakest link. You can stress test that new paddle or audio chain, make certain your logging program is working properly with your equipment. In other words, a State QSO Party provides an excellent trial run for your budding contest station — if that’s your cup of tea.
- Finish off your WAS basic award by snagging that State that you just never seem able to confirm. When dozens of operators are calling ‘CQ’ in their own QSO Party, from whatever state you might still need, chances are good that you will log a bunch of them, increasing your odds that at least one will confirm your QSO. Same goes for band and mode slots. Say you have the basic WAS award, but now you want to confirm all of them on RTTY. Or 80M CW. The State QSO Party’s will turbocharge your efforts to reach those goals.
- County hunters lick their chops over QSO Party activity. And with good reason. Those who organize a QSO party usually go out of their way to make certain that every county in their state is activated. Even if that requires engaging multiple “rover” stations who drive to and operate from counties that may have a zero ham population and are never active. And bonus, some of these rover station operators find their mobile/portable adventure so enjoyable, it becomes the primary focus of the hobby for them. It’s just another of the many facets of amateur radio.
- It’s a stress-free way to collect wallpaper, plaques, and bragging rights. Most QSO Party’s offer awards and plaques for top scores. And in many cases, you don’t need the biggest gun in the hunt to bag one. Do a little research and consider focusing on specialty entries. Enter as ‘QRP CW’ for example, and you will compete in a smaller pool while the plaque for taking first place in that category is even sweeter.
- Participation will make you radioactive! It’s no coincidence that those who rarely make use of their radio are often the most vocal critics of – well – almost everything about the hobby. Meanwhile, those who are frequently active on the air are too busy enjoying the hobby to waste time picking nits.
Operating in State QSO Parties couldn’t be easier, especially for those outside the state where the exchange is usually just signal report, your state or province, and sometimes a sequential number that begins with one and increments each time you make a contact. Inside the state, operators will also include their county. You can submit your log electronically (usually Cabrillo format) or send in paper, the old-fashioned way.
Read the rules, sketch out a plan, put in the effort, and then watch your logbook fill to overflowing.
(adapted from a recent issue of Quintessence, a weekly, personal letter about amateur radio)