“We felt like we needed to be back and have the event again, and we didn’t want to take two years off,” says Mike Hayward an ILRA board member. “We are trending 50 percent of a normal Rodeo, and we are full on our Expo floor. We are happy to have the linemen back at the Expo, and the vendors are happy that they are back face-to-face with the linemen throughout the United States.”
A total of 240 exhibitors showcased new products and technologies at the Lineman’s Expo Oct. 14 and 15, 2021, at the Overland Park Convention Center.
“We used to have a handful of aisles, and now we have eight aisles with exhibitors on each side,” says Dennis Kerr, co-chairman of the ILRA. “The Expo is completely sold out. We have had many vendors come back from previous years, and they are excited about being here. The first-time vendors think it’s the greatest thing. There is such a variety of companies out here as part of the Expo, and there’s exciting and neat stuff to learn.”
At the Expo, exhibitors can talk one-on-one with the end users — the linemen — about what they like and don’t like about their products. The linemen can also go back to their field managers, executives and tool committees to tell them what new innovations they’ve discovered at the Lineman’s Expo.
“It is a very important event, and people from all over the country are always interested in attending it,” Kerr says. “We have a full house of vendors that have all the latest and greatest equipment on the floor.”
Showcasing New Products
The Lineman’s Expo featured diverse products from fall protection to personal protective equipment (PPE) to power tools. For example, Huskie Tool launched a new line of tools with interchangeable heads for cutting and crimping. Utility Solutions also showcased its Take-Apart Hot Stick.
Also, manufacturers of flame-retardant clothing displayed work shirts, jackets, sweatshirts and hoodies to provide not only warmth, but also protection. Unlike as in years past, the clothing is often more lightweight and breathable. Companies are also coming out with designs that are not just a smaller size, but a different silhouette for women in the line trade.
Carhartt showcased several types of clothing including its FR, high-vis raingear, which is heavy-duty and can last five to 10 years. In addition, Wrangler exhibited at the Rodeo to showcase its FR clothing designed for the field workforce.
“We are trying to do a grassroots marketing effort to get our brand awareness out to the wearers, and there’s no place better to go than the Lineman’s Rodeo,” says Paul Noto, sales for Wrangler. “They are our target audience. Having them come here and know that we are in the business and have solutions for them is what it’s all about. These last two days have been wonderful for us.”
Exhibitors not only showcased products to improve linemen’s safety, but also boost their level of education and training. Caleb Thompson from Timpson Training says he gave 15 demonstrations of his training system for the linemen attendees in one day.
“When linemen get out into the real world, their hair can stand up and the panic can set in,” Thompson says. “Our system continuously monitors the voltage on the lines so anything over a certain voltage will trip the unit. It creates a more realistic training environment.”
At the event, line schools also exhibited to raise awareness about the training programs that are available. For example, the Elite Lineman Training Institute, which started two-and-a-half years ago, offers four 11-week programs annually in Georgia. The programs are designed to “not just get them through,” but make them a better lineman, according to the company.
Utilities, which are looking to hire more linemen, also exhibited on the show floor, not to recruit on site, but rather to spread awareness about their companies. For example, Tim Jones from Evergy was at the Expo talking to the attendees.
“It’s great to be back this year,” Jones says.
Christopher Hedges, who has been a supporter of the Rodeo since it first began, traveled to the convention center for the Lineman’s Expo. He was looking for new technologies for his electrical contracting firm in Kansas City.
“I enjoy seeing old friends and learning about new products, but the best thing is the people,” he says. “That’s what we come for.”