More competitors, more vendors, a bigger awards banquet and even more grillers — just about everything about the 17th Gaff-n-Go Equipment Operator’s and Lineman’s Rodeo set a record.
The rodeo, from May 10-11 at Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Virginia, attracted hundreds of friends, family members and spectators who watched more than 150 talented lineworkers from six states ply their trade in a friendly, yet competitive, environment.
“We’re really proud that this has grown from pretty humble beginnings into one of the largest regional rodeos in the country,” says John C. Lee, CEO of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and chairman of the Rodeo Working Group. “We're also really proud to stage an event where our lineworkers can demonstrate the hard work, the determination, and the mental and physical toughness this profession requires.”
The event was hosted by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives (VMDAEC) and sponsored by TEREX in partnership with Nesco Specialty Rentals.
Friday’s equipment operator’s rodeo tested each three-member team’s ability to maneuver trucks and equipment used in electric distribution systems. While crews maneuvered around obstacles, nearly a dozen grilling teams wafted the aroma of barbecued pork, chicken and beef in the Gaff-n-Grill event, won by Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s “Blowing Smoke” chefs.
On Saturday, declared Electric Utility Line Workers Day by Governor Ralph Northam, three-member journeyman teams and individual apprentices competed in events such as a hurt man rescue and a capacitator changeout, just like in real life.
“It is so impressive to observe these professionals as they work 40 ft above the ground on a course of utility poles while always keeping safe and efficient work practices front and center,” says Richard Johnstone, VMDAEC president and CEO.
Lee noted that the number of competitors has jumped to 150 competitors from 119 apprentices and journeymen in 2013. The 2019 field also included two U.S. Army teams from the 249th Engineer Battalion (Prime Power) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
The vendor expo featured 51 exhibitors in 2019, compared with 30 in 2013, and 540 tickets were sold for the awards banquet up from 330 in 2013.
Additionally, participants and spectators dug deep in their pockets to help raise nearly $6,000 to support a Dominion Energy worker recently injured in the line of duty.
“The event is just getting bigger and better each year and we look forward to continued growth thanks to our sponsors, our volunteers, our judges and most of all, our lineworkers,” Johnstone said.
Winning the three-member journeyman category was the Dominion Energy team of Brock Hawthorne, Jason Langhorne and Robert Tuthill with Michael Sims, Jacob Kelley and Anson Perry in second place.
The highest co-op team — third overall — was the Delaware Electric squad of Philip Collison, Dave Morgan and Michael Layton. They took the Jimmy Gardner for the highest score among VMD Association teams. Gardner served as one of the first cooperative linemen in Virginia and lived into his 90s to see the early success and growth of the rodeo event. In all, 27 journeyman teams participated in the rodeo.
Top apprentice honors among 61 competitors went to Will Reid of BARC Electric Cooperative, who registered a stellar performance across five events, including first place in a written test and third in the hurt man rescue. T.W Parks of Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and Zach Matthews of Dominion placed second and third in the apprentice division.
The TEREX Equipment Operator’s Rodeo went to the Rappahannock Electric Cooperative team of Thomas Bailey, Addison Spicer and Alister Pollard. They registered a perfect score in less time than their 23 competitors. Jared Mayton, Brandon Senger and Delbert Orsborne of Southside Electric Cooperative finished second with a second REC team of Jason Morris, Chad Foster and Kevin Houston in third.
For complete results from this year’s event, visit www.gaff-n-go.com. Also check out this photo gallery, which features images provided by the Virginia, Maryland and Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.