SPARC Dogs And SPARC Burgers
I suppose the first question is, “What is a SPARCFest?” That’s an easy answer. It is a Ham Fest put on by SPARC. Yes, I can clear that up too. SPARC is my
radio club, the St Petersburg
Amateur Radio Club.
A Ham Fest is a gathering of hams, amateur radio operators who come from far
and wide to meet, engage in good ham fellowship, meet old friends and meet new
ones and perhaps to put a face with the voice they have talked to on the radio.
A Ham Fest is also a tailgate gathering where surplus amateur equipment is
bought, sold and traded; a good place to look for bargains. They can be local,
informal events or large, ambitious undertakings with manufacturers and retail outlets in
attendance. The Ham Fests are natural magnets for the area’s ham radio
My club, the St Petersburg Amateur Radio Club, was this
event’s sponsor and it was staged at Freedom Lake Park, located in Pinellas
Park, Florida. It was an excellent venue for the event. The weather was mild; a
cool morning becoming a balmy afternoon. There was lots of cushiony green grass.
The rippling blue waters of the lake could be seen between the tall pines trees
that provided a moving curtain of shade all during the Ham Fest.
The club also provided the food offering donuts, coffee,
sodas, water and SPARC Burgers and SPARC Dogs for sale. Ron, KP2N (that’s how
hams do it, first name and call sign) has been the chief cook and bottle washer
at these events for many years, or as Donn, N4KII, would say, purveyor of burnt
offerings. All kidding aside, Don, KP2N, does an excellent job. My first taste
of a SPARCDog was back in June during the
ARRL Field Day. After a long day on the air, talking to other
amateur operators all over the United States, Canada and the world, I was
hungry and a SPARCDog was just the thing. Since then I have waited, although
not always patiently, for another and the opportunity came early this November
at the SPARCFest.
This was a morning affair. The first tailgaters arrived even
before the sun was above the horizon. In the cool early morning it was donuts
and coffee mostly. It wasn’t until midmorning before the brunch urge came to
fore. By then the aroma of grilling dogs
and burgers was too much and I ordered one of each, the burger with cheese.
Ron, KP2N, served me right away. I took my goodies to the condiment table and
applied liberal amounts of mustard, relish and onions to the SPARCDog and a
swirl of catsup to the SPARCBurger. Then it was off to the picnic table under
the canopy to sample the food.
I sat across from Linda, KI4RV. She was just finishing up
her SPARCDog and SPARCBurger. She told me she was thinking very seriously about
having another of each. I decided to start with the SPARCDog. It was a fresh
bun, toasted over the charcoal grill. The hot dog was grilled and not burnt
thankfully. The onions were fresh, only recent y diced. The relish was the typical sweet pickle
relish, from a large jar recently opened. The mustard was from a name-brand
family sized bottle just opened. It is my understanding that hot dogs are
removed from their casing after being cooked at the factory. Perhaps it was
just in the grilling but the dog seemed to have a snap like a sausage still in
the casing. The taste was just what you would expect and want from a dog that
had been dressed the way you like it.
Next I tried the SPARCBurger. Again, a fresh bun, toasted
over the charcoal grill. Whereas the SPARCDog is served on a hot dog boat, the
SPARCBurger is served open-faced on a saucer-sized plate. Served from the
grill, it is a basic burger; meat, cheese and a bun. With the available
condiments, catsup, mustard, relish and onions, I could have made a McDonalds
cheeseburger clone minus the dill chips. In used a swirl of catsup to moisten
the burger but a small enough amount as to not change the flavor of the burger.
It really wasn’t needed. The burger was cooked through but not overcooked, not
dried out. The patty was still moist, the juices running clear. Ron, KP2N,
seasons the patties with salt and pepper so no additional seasoning is needed.
The burger was tasty. He also uses only Nathan's Hot Dogs.
In conversations with Ron, KP2N, he mentioned that he has
done catering work in the past. Perhaps that experience is what he called on to
set up his kitchen in the park. Raw meats are separate from the other foods,
cooked or raw. The meat is kept in lots of ice. The cooked foods are kept in in
insulated containers to keep them warm. The condiments are on yet another table.
A large dispenser of handi-bleach wipes is in frequent use for surfaces and
tools. Food is protected from cross contamination and the food is kept at safe
temperatures to prevent spoilage. At first glance the cooking area looks a bit
haphazard but there is a purpose to the arrangement, to provide safe food to
the SPARCFest patrons. I give this year’s SPARCFest dogs and burgers a thumbs-up.
Labels: amateur, burger, dog, Florida, freedom lake, ham, hamfest, park, Pinellas park, radio, SPARCBurger, SPARCDog, SPARCFest, St Petersburg