Every September, linemen from across North America look forward to the ““Super Bowl” of the line trade. After winning top honors at local, state and regional rodeos, apprentices and journeymen travel to Kansas City, Missouri, for the International Lineman’s Rodeo.
Seeing so many linemen flood into my hometown each fall is inspiring not only to me but also to the entire Kansas City community. Linemen are not often in the spotlight unless they have worked long hours in brutal conditions following severe storms. The rodeo, however, honors the best and brightest in the line trade when the sun is shining, the power is on and family members are watching from the sidelines.
Ryan Streeter, an apprentice for Tacoma Power, says the rodeo gives the competitors a sense of pride in the line trade.
“It’s a nostalgic kind of thing to me; we’re upholding tradition by providing power to people,” he said. “It brings out the competitive side of people, and you get to see the family side of the trade. I love seeing the spouses and kids showing up at the rodeo. There’s a lot of family support. You get to see how people do stuff differently and how the nomenclature is different. I’m going to be a lineman forever. I love the camaraderie that comes with the trade.”
Line Leaders of the Future
In this year’s Lineman’s Spotlight supplement, we are featuring some of the nation’s top apprentices and newly minted journeymen in “Faces of the Future.” Before the sun even rises on the rodeo grounds, these competitors have already invested hours practicing with their teams and gearing up for the international event.
For example, Chris Sanchez, an apprentice for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, has won the apprentice division of the International Lineman’s Rodeo twice. To climb to the top of the apprentice division, he says competitors should not allow stress to get in the way.
“Apprentices know what to do,” Sanchez said. “They need to look at everything as a job, and just go out there and have fun because it’s a fun competition.”
Most linemen have a healthy, competitive nature, even in everyday line work, says Jared Papa, a journeyman for Arizona Public Service (APS).
“They are constantly thinking of better, safer and more efficient ways to do all aspects of line work,” Papa said. “Lineman rodeos have been very fun and exciting, and I have enjoyed the competition. Rodeos help you think outside the box, which can be very beneficial when you are out in the field.”
By participating in rodeos, apprentices can not only improve their climbing skills but also think about the next steps on how to do tasks quickly and safely, says Dustin Curry, apprentice for Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).
“I find myself doing the next step without thinking or being told and being more productive on bigger jobs,” said Curry, who at the 2016 International Lineman’s Rodeo placed fourth for apprentices in the investor-owned utility category, first in the apprentice slack blocks event, and third in the apprentice hurt-man rescue competition.
For PG&E’s Brandon Branch, the rodeo gave him the sense of competition he was longing for as well as a connection to many other brothers and sisters in the line trade.
“In the Marines, everything is made into a competition to promote unit cohesion and efficiency, so everyone gives it their all at every turn,” Branch explained. “It was a little weird to enter the civilian world, where that sense of competition isn’t always there. Then I found the Lineman’s Rodeo, and it was amazing. By meeting different linemen from different areas, I was able to swap stories and learn new tricks.”
Devin Davis, an apprentice for APS, says walking across the stage at the International Lineman’s Rodeo was one of the best feelings he has ever had.
“It is the biggest line trade-affiliated event in the world, and just being there was an honor,” Davis noted. “It was certainly a humbling experience considering the amount of talent that was there at the rodeo. It has truly increased my love of the craft and trade.”
Spotlight on the Line Trade
In addition to profiling future line leaders, the 2017 Lineman’s supplement also explores other topics pertinent to the trade. For example, in “Training the Linemen for the Real World,” T&D World readers get a glimpse into some of the most innovative training centers across North America.
Also, with the issue of grid modernization and storm hardening coming to the forefront, we focused on how linemen nationwide are rebuilding the nation’s electric system in “Lineman Rebuild America’s Aging Grid.” Finally, “10 Tactical Tips for Mutual Assistance” shares how utilities can maximize their assistance programs and speed up power restoration.
We hope you will enjoy reading this year’s supplement, and we look forward to meeting many of you at the 2017 rodeo in Kansas City. ♦
For more information about the 2017 International Lineman's Rodeo, please visit the Web site.