HOG rally communications trailerHow do you provide communications support for an event that involves over 1,600 motorcycles and thousands of spectators? With a dedicated ARES/RACES team and a slew of KB9VBR J-Pole antennas. On August 16-18, 2012, Marathon County ARES in conjunction with ARES/RACES teams from Lincoln, Portage, and Wood Counties in Wisconsin provided communications support for the 2012 Harley Owners Group annual State Rally held in Wausau, WI.

WI State Patrol showed off their tricked out law enforcement cycles

The Rally, which involved thousands of Harley Davidson owners, family, was a three day event filled with rides, demos, shows, bands, and a parade of 500 motorcycles that stretched out for 2 miles as it wound around a 12 mile through the greater Wausau area. This event required bringing together four groups of people, the amateur radio operators, the Harley dealership, H.O.G organizers, and law enforcement, and allowing them to communicate in an interoperable fashion. The ARES/RACES team set up a communications trailer outfitted with a bevy of radios so all communications and information could come into a central spot and be shared with the stakeholders involved.

kb9vbr j-pole antenna communicationsEach group was on their own radio channel. The amateur operators that ran the parking operations were on a VHF simplex channel, the H.O.G. organizers used VHF MURS radios, the Harley Dealership had GMRS/FRS radios, and law enforcement used a public safety mutual aid channel. ARES/RACES members manned then manned the communications trailer and shuttled traffic between the multiple radio channels.

KB9VBR J-Pole antenna MURS and GMRS CommunicationsAll communications run during the weekend were facilitated with KB9VBR J-Pole antennas.  A total of six KB9VBR J-Pole antennas were used for the amateur radio, MURS, GMRS, and VHF Public Safety bands. All weekend, participants had no problem hearing the transmissions from the communications trailer. In fact at one point the trailer was receiving GMRS traffic from a highway road construction crew over two miles away from the event. The MURS antenna easily covered the volunteers and organizers as they communicated over the 3 square mile event grounds and the Public Safety Land Mobile band antenna easily heard the law enforcement traffic over the 12 mile parade route.

The highlight of the weekend is the parade through town. Over 500 H.O.G. members participated in the parade as it wound through the Wausau metro area. Law enforcement acted as traffic guards at critical intersections to stop traffic and let the cycles through.

APRS tracker secured to the back of a parade motorcycle

Parade tracked in real time on the computer screen

An APRS tracker was installed on a lead motorcycle and another ham in a truck follow up the tail to accurately track the parade’s position for the event organizers. The communications trailer was able to provide real time status updates to the event organizers via the situational awareness of the APRS display and radio traffic. This helped the organizers prepare the events for the arrival of the mass of motorcycles as they neared the end of their route.

H.O.G. Rally command trailer. The Incident Commander sat at the station to the left. A net control operator worked the radios to the right.

Fortunately there were no accidents during the parade; in fact the event ran very smoothly. The extensive communications planning and trained operators helped the H.O.G. organizers run a top notch event.