SALT LAKE CITY — Christmas bells and radio static may be heard in Herriman this weekend as Santa Claus talks to children at the Herriman Library over ham radio.
We can assume Santa is hard at work at his North Pole workshop with Christmas just right around the corner, but all that work hasn't stopped him from becoming licensed as a ham radio operator, said Brian Johanson, this year’s “Talk to Santa” coordinator and a member of the Herriman Amateur Radio Club.
“Santa Claus can’t talk to all the kids around the world,” Johanson said. “He’s busy making toys, driving around in his sleigh and making preparations for Christmas.
“But he got his ham radio license and partnered with the Herriman Amateur Radio Club. So, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Dec. 2, he will be listening for anyone who wants to talk to him — to wish them a merry Christmas.”
Johanson said when he has helped children talk with Santa over ham radio in the past, he has always enjoyed the experience.
“You can learn a little about ham radio, and at the same time, it’s just a blast to work with the kids,” Johanson said. “We decorate it real nice with gift boxes and Santa hats. It’s a lot of fun.”
The Herriman Amateur Radio Club, a nonprofit organization, has been bringing the voice of Santa to young ham radio operators each December for the past five years — and “Talk to Santa” is not the only yearly event the organization holds.
“They do lots of activities related to ham radio,” Johanson said, “but this is probably the biggest kid-friendly one. They meet every second Saturday for an in-person meeting, and then they have a ‘net’ on the radio every Sunday at 9 p.m.”
All ages — parents included — are welcome to participate in the event; additionally, Johanson said anyone can become a licensed ham radio operator.
“There’s no age limit for becoming a ham radio operator. As long as you can pass the test, you can become a ‘ham,’” Johanson said. “That’s something any kid can do, and we can always use more kids in our club.”
To become a licensed amateur radio operator, individuals must study for a 35-question multiple-choice test. The license does not have an age requirement.
Amateur radios — also called ham radios — are still a hobby for many in the 21st century despite the advent of the internet. More than just a pastime, ham radios are useful during times of natural disaster because of their reliability.
While communication via the internet has its benefits, ham radio has the advantage of not needing a pre-existing network. A ham radio operator only needs a frequency to receive information from others and pass it on.
Whether in times of emergency or just for fun, Johanson said ham radio operation is a valuable skill anyone can learn — even when connecting to the North Pole.
“It’s just fun to see the kids light up and talk with Santa and learn a little bit about ham radio at the same time," Johanson said. "It’s just a good time for everyone — kind of a mix between the magic of Christmas and real life.”
If you go
What: “Talk to Santa” via ham radio
Where: Herriman Library, 5380 W. Main St., Herriman
When: Saturday, Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
How much: Free