The night before the International Lineman’s Rodeo, hundreds of linemen and their families arrived at the Overland Park Convention Center. Carrying in boxes and bags stuffed with T-shirts and caps, they had one mission in mind — to trade their utility apparel for T-shirts from other utilities worldwide. Linemen have brought items to trade such as ball caps, team shirts, flashlights, knives and bags since the fourth annual Lineman’s Rodeo. Today, the companies custom-design T-shirts, and Trade Night has become the reason most families attend the Friday night barbecue, says Dale Warman of the International Lineman’s Rodeo.
This year’s T-shirts came in a wide spectrum of colors and designs. For example, Clayton Loback, a foreman for Henkels & McCoy, and his wife, Brenda, designed the Henkels & McCoy/Local 47 shirts with a Game of Poles design, inspired by the TV show “Game of Thrones.”
In addition, the utilities, electric cooperatives and municipalities devoted their designs to showcase pride in their state. Gary Tanner, a line foreman with North Arkansas Electric Co-op, designed a red shirt for his utility with a Razorback logo, outline of the state of Arkansas and the words “Power Within Razorback Nation.” Similarly, the bright orange Ameren Illinois T-shirt depicted a black outline of the state of Illinois, a lineman working in the field and the phrase “The Hardest Thing That We Have Ever Done Is the Favorite Thing We Do.”
Utilities, which operate in multiple states, used their T-shirts as a way to unify their rodeo teams. Case in point: Duke Energy featured the phrase “Coast to Coast” over four colorful graphics depicting the utility’s operating regions in Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina. In the same vein, Eversource designed its shirt with the theme “Energy Brings Us Together.” The utility, which operates in Connecticut, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, competed on the same rodeo team for the first time in 2015.
With the line industry changing so rapidly and the wave of workers retiring from the industry, other utilities took a different approach to the T-shirt design. Mike Hayward, a member of the ILRA board, designed Empire Electric’s black shirt with the slogan “New Look, Same Muscle.” The T-shirt featured photos of a retired lineman and a currently employed lineman to show the past and future of the line trade.
Other T-shirts were devoted specifically to the rodeo competition. For example, IBEW Local 53’s navy blue shirt featured a spark of neon green lightning down one sleeve and the words “International Lineman’s Rodeo: Where Only the Best Compete” on the back.
After initially trading T-shirts on the first floor, the linemen and their families traveled up to the second floor, where tables were set up for the official trading session. The linemen held up shirts, hollered out sizes and swapped the garments with other linemen looking for the perfect T-shirt.
After enjoying some Kansas City barbecue, the linemen then slipped away to their hotel rooms to rest up for the next day of international competition on the rodeo grounds. While only the top competitors were able to take home trophies, most of the linemen took home dozens of T-shirts from new acquaintances and old friends from around the globe.
Editor’s note: To see a photo gallery of T-shirt designs from the Trade Night, visit the Electric Utility Operations website.