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Internation Linemans Rodeo  Expo
<p>Family members and coworkers lined the sidelines to cheer on the competitors during the rodeo.</p>

International Lineman’s Rodeo & Expo Roundup

The 2014 International Lineman&#39;s Rodeo and Expo featured tools and safety, history and tradition, competition and camaraderie, family and fun. This photo tour shows you the highlights.

2014 Expo Highlights New Tools for Linemen

Exhibitors showcase products that help linemen to improve their safety and productivity in the field.

For the first time in the history of the International Lineman’s Expo, the exhibits extended beyond the exhibit hall at the Overland Park Convention Center. Vendors had the opportunity to not only showcase their new tools and technology in booths at the expo, but also near the entrance of the rodeo grounds.

About a dozen manufacturers set up tents to display their products, hand out literature and talk with linemen and their families at the annual rodeo. Every year, the International Lineman’s Rodeo strives to do something different with the trade show, says Dale Warman, co-chairman of the board of directors for the International Lineman’s Rodeo Association.

“We try to not get complacent or comfortable with it,” he says. “We listen to different suggestions, take the ideas and run with them.”

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
From flashlights to fall protection equipment, the expo offers products to fit every need and application.

For 2014, the expo floor was completely sold out, with companies unveiling new products aimed at helping linemen to improve their productivity and safety. For example, Jeremy Prawl, a journeyman lineman for Westar Energy, came to the expo to search for ergonomic tools.

“I am looking for new technology that makes it easier on our bodies,” he says. “Anything we can do to prevent us from having bad shoulders or knees is big in our industry.”

He was also on the show floor to familiarize himself with the Ox Block device in Buckingham Manufacturing’s booth. His company purchased one of the devices prior to the rodeo so the competitors could practice with it before the rodeo.

Bruce Thompson of Local 47 in Riverside, California, came to the expo and rodeo with his son, who was competing on his same team. They were looking for the ClampStar booth, which featured another one of the devices that was used in the journeyman mystery event.

“We are trying to figure out how it works and the do’s and don’ts of working with it,” explains Thompson.

In addition to trying out the devices used at the rodeo, the attendees could also discover products that would help them to comply with the new OSHA regulation, which goes into effect next April. For example, linemen will soon need to wear flame-retardant  shirts and pants. For that reason, Carhartt displayed its collection of flame-retardant pants and new plaid flame-retardant shirts in its booth at the expo. Also, the vendors of fall-protection devices like Buckingham and Capital Safety were on hand to answer linemen’s questions and offer suggestions for fall-restraint devices that would help them to comply with the new regulations.

By browsing the new products on the show floor, linemen were able to discover ways to enhance their efficiency, meet new standards and drive down injuries in the field.

Internation Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
An attendee stops by the J. Harlen Co. booth to learn about new tools available on the market.

International LIneman's Roder & Expo
For the 2014 expo, all of the booth space was sold out, and a nearly record number of attendees browsed products on the show floor, attended the safety conference and attended the rodeo.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Chance manufactures tools that help linemen to stay safe on the job, whether they’re working on live or de-energized lines.

Internation Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
The Ox Block was used in the Journeyman Mystery Event at the rodeo. As such, many linemen stopped by the Buckingham Manufacturing booth to learn more about the device.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Sherman + Reilly introduced a new puller for the line industry to help linemen save time and labor on the job.


Traveling Back in Time

International Lineman’s Museum trailer displays vintage tools and equipment outside the expo.

A century ago, electric utility linemen performed nearly all their work by hand. Through old-fashioned hard work, they constructed some of the nation’s first power lines without the help of modern-day technology such as bucket trucks or battery-powered tools.

While many of the early linemen are no longer with us, their legacy lives on in the tools that they left behind, says Robert Padgett, a senior lineman trainer for Lakeland Electric.

“What I like about the old tools is that some man risked his life to make a living with them,” he says. “He dragged them out of his wagon and used them every day.”

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Linemen enjoy walking through the trailer, learning about the old tools and discovering more about the history of line work.

To preserve the history of these tools, many collectors have donated items to the International Lineman’s Museum in Shelby, North Carolina. Because it’s difficult for some linemen and their families to travel to the East Coast, however, the museum is now bringing the vintage collection to the linemen. George Hayden, an avid collector in Indiana, shared his 40-year collection of artifacts by setting up a mobile museum. For a few years, the trailer is on loan and is on a nationwide tour.

In mid-October, Padgett and Murray Walker, two members of the board of directors for the museum, set up the trailer outside the Overland Park Convention Center during the International Lineman’s Expo. Over the course of two days, hundreds of linemen walked through the mobile museum. Padgett and Murray gave attendees an up-close, behind-the-scenes look at the priceless relics inside of the trailer. Here are some of the highlights of the collection.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
The mobile museum showcases vintage tools and equipment from around the world.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Reddy Kilowatt is a corporate mascot and, well, “spokesthing,” created in 1926 by Ashton B. Collins, Sr., of the Alabama Power Company. Reddy has a lightbulb for a nose, wall outlets for ears and a torso and limbs made of lightning bolts. The character was licensed to power companies across the United States to represent electricity as a safe and useful utility.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
This collection of crimpers and presses and different tools were used for pressing wire by hand. Up until the 1950s, most of the wire was copper, and before that time, a lot of steel wire was used. Today’s linemen can save time and improve ergonomics through automatic splices, but their predecessors hand pressed the sleeves and splices to join the damaged copper conductor.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
These suspension insulators are some of the oldest in the museum. They date back to 1914, and there are still some in use today in Florida on 230-kV lines. They were very reliable and didn’t have flashover from lightning or overcurrents, but they were difficult to perform maintenance and do repairs on. They weren’t manufactured for a long period of time, which makes them very rare.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
The century-old coin-operated watt-hour meters were found in the hotels in the big cities. Most of the hotels did not have electricity in the rooms, but if the patrons had enough money, they could put money in the meters to have electricity

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
These screw knobs, secondary racks and dead-ends were used as the termination point from the power company to a residence. They served as the final point of connection before the meter. Thousands of different types are out there still today, and they are screwed or bolted in. Many businesses and homes still have them in service. At one point, every home in America had one of the devices.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Some of the bulbs are more than 100 years old and many were used for street lighting.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Vintage insulators from one of the world’s oldest and largest collection are shown inside the mobile museum. These glass insulators came from the telegraph, railroad or power industries. They were available in several different colors, and some of them were put in the air for 50 or 60 years. “Had they been left abandoned on a railroad easement, the poles would have rotten and fallen, and the insulators would have been damaged or destroyed,” Padgett says. “George Hayden rescued many of them, and it has been great for our industry.”

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
This box was used by traveling salesmen for the rural co-ops. They would go to rural farms, bring the box to the home and roll out the wire to the various rooms of the house. By winding up a generator outside the customer’s homes, the light would then come on inside the houses. It was their way of selling electrification to the farmers many years ago.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Field Editor Amy Fischbach stands next to Willie Wiredhand, a figure from the 1950s. This character, which featured a light-socket head, electrical plug for legs and a push-button nose, stood at the entrance to the trailer.


Linemen Learn How to Stay Safe in the Field

Annual safety conference drives the point home that safety should always come first.

When linemen work out in the field, safety is at the top of their minds day in and day out. To help utilities to protect their field workforce, the International Lineman’s Rodeo Association (ILRA) and IBEW Local 47 presented a free safety conference before the Lineman’s Expo.

Mike Hayward, vice chairman of the advisory committee and board member of the ILRA, says the conference was extended from a three-hour session to a full one-and-a-half-day conference. In past years, the conference attracted about 150 attendees over the course of the two days, but this year, more than 210 linemen and field managers registered for the event, which was sponsored by IBEW Local 47.

“They really enjoy it, and it’s a good addition to the expo and the rodeo,” says Hayward, who works for Empire Electric. “It’s been very well received over the last eight years, and we let the linemen know it is all about them.”

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Chip Madera, a motivational speaker, opened the 2014 Safety Conference with a talk on safety leadership.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Linemen from across North America came to the Overland Park Convention Center a day early to attend the safety conference.

Following each conference, the organizers hand out surveys to the attendees, and then they build the next year’s event based on the feedback from the linemen. This year, the safety conference featured a variety of sessions covering accident investigations, safety leadership and grounding practices. One session, however, brought tears to the linemen’s eyes. Linemen gave Highline Heroes Founder Tracy Moore a standing ovation when she shared her personal story about her lineman husband, who lost his life when he was only 31 years old, as well as her brother, who recovered in a burn center following a serious injury.

“The personal injury story hits home with the guys,” Hayward says. “They know their jobs can be dangerous, but it helps them get a grasp on what is out there.”


Families Are at the of Heart of Linemen’s Annual Rodeo

Families travel from coast to coast to Kansas City to stand behind their beloved linemen.

When severe storms hit, linemen’s families are often at home, waiting and worrying for their loved one’s safe return. Once a year, however, their children have the rare opportunity to ride in a bucket truck and watch their parents work in the field.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Chip Madera, a motivational speaker, opened the 2014 Safety Conference with a talk on safety leadership.

For example, the Williamson family has traveled to Kansas City for the expo and rodeo for the past four years.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Dustin Williamson, a lineman for Interen, brought his family to the expo and rodeo. With him are his two-year-old son, and his wife, who is expecting her third child.

“We’ve been to every rodeo since our youngest son has been born, and he’s like a veteran out here,” says Dustin Williamson, a lineman for Interen, a contractor for Ameren UE. “I like coming to these events because it’s a good thing to see and watch, and there is so much pride. It’s amazing to see the linemen work.”

His wife, Erica, who is expecting her third child, says she enjoys coming to the event because her three-year-old son, Nash, can see what his dad does for a living every day. Her husband has been working in the trade since they first got married, and sometimes, he can be out on storm duty for months at a time.

“With my youngest son getting older, he misses his dad when he is gone, and it is hard to explain to him why he is not at home,” she says. “I admire what he does, and I am very proud of him. Just knowing what he is doing when he is gone gets me through the day.”

When asked what his daddy does for a living, Nash said, “He fixes power” before giving his dad a big hug. In his family, line work runs in his blood. Dustin’s father and brothers are all linemen, and he says he is not sure whether or not he wants his own kids to follow in his footsteps.

“One day, one of my boys or my daughter might become a lineman,” he says. “While there is a lot of danger out there, it is becoming a safer trade. It is not for everyone, however. My dad always told me that a lineman’s pencil has no eraser, and it is a no-mistakes trade. It’s scary to think that your kid might do that someday.”

Other linemen’s children were also looking to continue their family’s tradition by pursuing future careers in the line trade. Wyatt Prawl, the nine-year old son of Lineman Jeremy Prawl of Westar Energy, says he likes to watch his dad work and climb poles. With his affinity for being outside and riding in bucket trucks, he could enter an apprenticeship one day.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Monique Rodriguez and her nine-year-old son, Tyler Torres, cheered on the Southern California Edison team at the rodeo. Her husband, Danny, has been with SCE for three years, and her son says he wants to follow in his footsteps and work as a lineman one day.

Another nine-year-old, Tyler Torres, came to the event with his mom, Monique Rodriguez, and his father, Danny Torres, who is a lineman with Southern California Edison. Rodriguez says she is very proud of her husband.

“We are very fortunate for him to have the job that he does,” she says. “I know it is a dangerous job, and I worry every day that he is out there. He keeps us in mind, and that’s what keeps him safe.”

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Donna Vanunnik watched her son compete in the apprentice mystery event for Ameren Illinois in Galesburg, Illinois. She traveled to the event with her daughter-in-law, Christa, and her granddaughter, Kennedy, who was proudly sporting a “Powerline Princess” T-shirt to cheer on her daddy.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Travis Dinges, a journeyman lineman for Midwest Energy, brought his wife, daughter, and two sons to the International Lineman’s Rodeo and Expo.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Trey Harper and his wife and three kids made the trip to Kansas City to browse the exhibits on the show floor at the expo and go to the 2014 rodeo. His son says he enjoys watching his dad climb poles, and he wants to be a lineman someday because he likes to go outside and go up in bucket trucks.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Tricia Vetsch, the wife of a Westar Energy director of distribution, came to the rodeo with her six-year-old twin daughters, Maya and Paige, and her three-year-old daughter, Sydney. She and her husband, Steve, are also expecting a fourth child in March.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Jessica Jackson and her fiveyear- old son, Jackson, were supporting her husband, Jacob, who works as a journeyman lineman for Oklahoma Gas

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
From left to right: Jen and Bristol Novak, Kolten and Angie Koester, Kinsely and Holly Diekemper, and Carol Bade offered their enthusiastic support on a crisp but sunny Saturday morning.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Hannah Paulus, the wife of Oklahoma Gas

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
A lineman brought his two daughters to the rodeo to support the team from Northeast Utilities. His daughters wore bright pink sweatshirts with their dad’s company’s logo to the event.



Linemen Swap Shirts to Show Pride for Trade

Annual Trade Night gives linemen the opportunity to network and trade for shirts designed by utilities across North America.

When restoring power following a storm, linemen often work alongside dozens of linemen from other utilities. As such, they often have friends from utilities throughout North America.

While they may not be able to see their peers day in and day out, the T-shirt Trade Night gives them the opportunity to see their friends and show their pride for their companies and the line trade.

Prior to the barbecue, tables were stretched from the top of the escalators to the registration area. When the doors opened for the event, hundreds of linemen and their families traveled up the escalators to lay out their shirts and participate in the trade.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Paul Gatens, a journeyman lineman with Local 317, shows off his company’s “Born to Climb” shirt.

The lineman’s T-shirts were splashed with company logos, hand-drawn illustrations and bright colors. No two were the same and each one told a story. While some utilities opted for a humorous approach with a lineman-related cartoon, others took a more serious tone by honoring fallen linemen.

In many cases, linemen wore their company T-shirts and then carried along a duffel bag of extra shirts to trade. Some shirts were so popular that linemen took them off their own backs to trade them with fellow linemen at the event.

Brian Rice, a journeyman for Local 769 in Arizona, says during the T-shirt swap, he obtained shirts from Colorado, Illinois and Montana. “It’s neat to have shirts from all over the country,” he said.

During the Friday night event, the Transmission & Distribution World team snapped photos of their favorite T-shirts and created a hyperlapse video of the event. Here are a select few of the shirts from the Trade Night. To see the full photo gallery, visit

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Journeyman Bruce Meagher and apprentice Roy Ochoa from Henkels

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Brian Jones, a journeyman for Greenville Light and Power in Tennessee, shows the back of his company’s shirt, which features a skull, a hard hat with the company’s logo, flames and gaffes.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Dustin Campbell, a journeyman lineman, shows his red longsleeved IBEW shirt with a design of linemen hot sticking on a pole. The saying on the bottom reads, “It’s not about the money, it’s about keeping you turned on.”

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Randy Hobbs, superintendent of line crews for the City of Springfield, shows off a handdrawn illustration on the back of his company’s T-shirt. The shirt has Local Union 753 down the sleeve and an original design by lineman Cody Jacobs. A committee of linemen sits down together each year to come up with different ideas for the design.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Jeremy Rush, a journeyman for Centerpoint Energy in Houston, says his shirt says a lot about safety, dedication and brotherhood. It also features a small pink ribbon on the front in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. On the back, there is a large Texas flag and an illustration of linemen hot sticking.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
IBEW Local 17 apprentice Josh Heaton and journeyman Joel Terbush work together to show off their shirt, which features the IBEW logo of a fist holding lightning, steel and tower work as well as all the names of the contractors on the bottom. The shirt also shows steel and tower work, distribution and substations.


Storm Soldiers Team Films Weather Warriors

Producers and directors announce a casting call for linemen’s families at the 2014 expo.

When disaster strikes, linemen are often the first responders on the scene, even before the firefighters, police officers or EMT crews. Up until last year’s movie “Storm Soldiers,” however, many Americans were not aware of the sacrifice that the linemen make every day to keep the power on.

While filming the award-winning documentary, the creative team, including Roxy Stone, Jim Stone and Scott Jacobs, noticed the role that linemen’s families play while their loved ones are out on storm duty. As such, the team decided to create another film called “Storm Soldiers II: Weather Warriors,” which will be presented by Hubbell Power Systems, Altec Inc. and Burndy Inc.

International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
Jim Stone and Scott Jacobs of Tytan Creates were recruiting families to participate in their new documentary “Weather Warriors.”

“We are excited to bring ‘Storm Soldiers II’ to the line community,” says Jim Stone, director for Tytan Creates. “We know linemen face a lot of difficult situations, and we captured some of their stories in ‘Storm Soldiers.’ This winter, we are going to go out into the ice storms with the linemen, and we’re also going to go out on the tornadoes with the crews. After the storms, we are going to focus not only on their crew family in the field, but also their families at home.”
Tytan Creates has already lined up several linemen’s families to participate in the production of the film, but the production company also took the opportunity to recruit more participants through an open casting call at the 2014 Lineman’s Expo.

“We are looking for families that want to join in this and be part of this important story that needs to be told,” Stone says.

Scott Jacobs, producer, says the goal of the new documentary is to get much more up close and personal. While the first movie highlighted the history of the line trade and the role linemen play in America, the sequel will focus in on the emotions that happen when a mother or father has to leave home and go into challenging conditions during a storm.

“We want to tell that story and we want it to be as real as possible,” Jacobs says. “This isn’t a Hollywood film, but it is a true documentary, and we want to bring the viewer closer into the lineman’s family.”

Stone says Hollywood producers couldn’t cast any actor that is more true than the linemen.

“The linemen are living in tractor trailers and away from their families for months at a time,” he says. “They don’t know when they are coming home, and they stay until the power comes back on. They are the most unselfish guys I have ever met, and they are the real deal. They are true American heroes.”

Internation Lineman's Rodeo & Expo
The new documentary will focus on the families of linemen.

Editor’s note: To see a trailer for the new movie, visit the website at If you are a lineman with children still living at home and are interested in becoming part of the movie, email Jim Stone at [email protected].


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