Chatham Marconi Center Sponsors First-ever 'Antenna Trail Challenge'

By: Tim Wood

Walking the Antenna Trail at the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center – or its equivalent distance – qualifies registered participants for prize drawings in the center's first Antenna Trail Challenge. TIM WOOD PHOTO


CHATHAM – Even as the vaccination rate increases, it's likely that large, in-person gatherings will be limited this year. Among the hardest hit by this are local nonprofits, which depend on summer fundraisers for support.

Many local organizations are planning to either continue virtual events begun last summer or launch new ones. Next month, the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center will hold its first-ever “Antenna Trail Challenge,” a two-week-long virtual event that will take the place of its annual gala.

For a decade, the gala has been the Orleans Road center's main fundraiser, bringing in an average of $12,500, according to Jan Whittaker, a member of the center's board and its development committee. Space limited attendance, however, and the center has found that virtual events reach a broader audience; its monthly virtual speaker series has regularly drawn more people than could have been hosted live. Development committee members were also inspired by virtual events held by Heritage Plantation and in place of the annual Chatham Turkey Trot.

“We're trying to make up some lost ground,” Whittaker said in an email.

To do that, the committee came up with the Antenna Trail Challenge, which uses historical elements related to Gugliemo Marconi's Cape Cod wireless stations to motivate participants to travel specific distances by the mode of their choice. Registered participants qualify for a host of prizes ranging from gift cards to an Apple watch.

Located on the site of the wireless station Marconi built in 1914, the Maritime Center occupies two buildings on the original 11.3-acre campus, which is a National Historic Register District. The Marconi-RCA Wireless Museum is housed in the former operations building, where telegraph operators communicated with ships at sea around the world for decades. The residence building, also known as the Hotel Nautilus, houses an education center with classrooms, exhibits, event space and administrative offices.

The Antenna Challenge sets out three options for distances to encourage as many people to participate as possible, Whittaker said. The shortest is the 440-yard Antenna Trail Loop Challenge, which is the distance of the scenic walking trail behind the museum building. The round-trip trail follows the path through the woods of antennas used when the radio station was operating.

The other options are the 5K Transmitter Challenge; that's the distance from the Marconi Center to the former site of the station's transmitter in overlooking Forest Beach in South Chatham. The final and longest option is the 14-mile Trans-Atlantic Challenge, the distance from the Chatham center to Marconi's first station in Wellfleet.

The challenge runs from May 13 to 26. During that time, registered participants are encouraged to complete one of the three distance challenges by walking, running, biking, driving, swimming, sailing, flying a drone – any means of motion qualifies, according to the center, and in any location. After completing the challenge, participants report their results and will be encouraged to post photos on social media using the hashtag #AntennaTrailChallenge.

The committee wanted the challenge to be accessible to as many people as possible, Whittaker said, including families, youngsters, members and non-members. “We want participants to have some fun and raise funds for us at the same time,” she said.

Registered entrants will be eligible to choose one of several drawings, which will take place on May 27 at 7 p.m. via Zoom. Prizes include Apple AirPods Pro, an eighth generation Apple iPad; an Apple Watch Series 6; a $250 gift card from Wheelhouse Bikes; a $100 gift card from Del Mar Bar and Bistro; a $100 gift card for Mac's Seafood; and a $250 dinner package for four at the Wild Goose Tavern.

The $20 registration fee as well as local business sponsorships and donations from a group of supporters known as Trailblazers will help fund the center's education programs, which focus on promoting knowledge and information about communication technology.

To register, visit Additional information is available at the center's website,