IT WAS THE LINEMEN'S TURN TO SHINE at this year's International Lineman's Rodeo, held Sept. 15-17, 2005. And shine they did with impressive timed finishes in events such as the pole climb, hurt man rescue, insulator replacement and dead-end insulator replacement, all categories in which the journeymen teams competed. Those in the apprentice division competed individually in those same events, except for dead-end insulator replacement; apprentices also took a written test and competed in a CPR event. In all, approximately 175 apprentices and 160 three-person journeyman teams competed in this year's rodeo, which took place in Bonner Springs, Kansas, U.S.

STIFF COMPETITION

All of the competitors — journeymen and apprentices alike — showed off just what it takes to work in the field these days. “The competition went very well, and, of course, we have some great competitors,” notes Dennis Kerr, co-chairman of the International Lineman's Rodeo Association (ILRA). “And Georgia Power from Southern Company demonstrated that they had some great teams with their first-place finishes overall.”

Members of the first-place team in the Journeyman Overall category came from Georgia Power's Oakley operating headquarters in Union City, Georgia, U.S., and included linemen Mark Buchanan, Mark Cochran and Ross Crosby. Louie Peebles coached the team. The winner in the Apprentice Overall category was Georgia Power's Scotty Burkes.

Another winning aspect of this year's rodeo is that it attracted several international teams. In addition to the United States, linemen from Jamaica, England, Ireland and Canada all competed in the rodeo. “We are very excited about the international teams that participate, as this is truly a world championship competition,” says Kerr. “We are always interested in seeing new teams from around the world, as this event is a premier event and we see the best linemen in the world competing.”

PRODUCTS GALORE

The trade show and evening festivities were held in nearby Overland Park, Kansas, so that's where a lot of attendees spent their time. With more than 80 exhibitors, the show floor was a main attraction as linemen talked face to face with exhibitors about new services, tools and equipment. It was the perfect opportunity for attendees to ask questions, and actually touch, try out and learn more about some of the products they had seen in the pages of Transmission & Distribution World or read about elsewhere.

The exhibit hall was also advantageous for exhibitors. “The expo is a great opportunity for the vendors to meet with linemen from all across the country and around the world and get their input on many of the products that are being used,” Kerr explains.

EVENING FESTIVITIES

In addition to keeping up with the latest products on the market, attendees had plenty of time to catch up with old friends at evening events. At the Friday night “Trade Night,” some of Kansas City's famous barbecue was served up at Black & Veatch's headquarters in Overland Park. Amidst all of the food, a trading frenzy was going on with linemen swapping all sorts of items, including shirts, hats and belt buckles.

Saturday evening was devoted to recognizing some of the best linemen in the business. After competing hard all day long, the linemen and their guests were treated to a prime rib dinner at the awards ceremony, which opened with the Overland Park police department's honor guard.

Prior to dinner, attendees were treated to a video highlighting the day's competition and capturing the excitement of the events. Next, on a more serious note, a video tribute to linemen was shown. The tribute contained footage of line workers who were helping to restore power to the areas that had been hard hit by Hurricane Katrina only a couple weeks earlier. There was also footage of linemen who helped to bring power back to New York City after the 9/11 catastrophe that befell the World Trade Center.

The tagline used in the video truly captures what linemen are all about: “We've been there, we're there now and we'll be there in the future, fighting the good fight.” When these words flashed on the projector screens, the whole crowd erupted with clapping and even some whistles.

All of the linemen who competed in the rodeo proved they are indeed in good fighting form. After dinner, the awards ceremony got underway with Mike Willman of Kansas City Power & Light emceeing the event. Kerr and Dale Warman, the other co-chair of the ILRA, presented trophies to the top journeymen teams and apprentices, with plenty of loud cheers and clapping from family, friends and colleagues.

A NOTEWORTHY SUCCESS

The ILRA has received plenty of positive feedback on the show from participants and judges, many of whom have said they look forward to attending next year. “All of those that are attached to the rodeo are volunteers from around the country and do an exceptional job of making this a great event,” Kerr notes. “Kansas City Power & Light is the host utility, assisted by Westar Energy, and provides a lot of support for the event.”

As it was this year, packed with food, fun and some friendly competition, the rodeo remains an annual must-attend event. Therefore, mark your calendar now for the next International Lineman's Rodeo to be held Oct. 5-7, 2006.

2005 SCHOLARSHIP WINNERS

Every year, the International Lineman's Rodeo Association (ILRA) awards scholarships to deserving students. ILRA offers these scholarships to inspire and promote the lineman trade.

“We are very excited about giving scholarships, as we have felt we need to give back to the trade and help the process of developing new lineman for the future,” says Dennis Kerr, chairman of the ILRA Scholarship Committee and co-chairman of the ILRA.

The ILRA first began awarding scholarships in 2002, when it gave out its first Billy Begnaud Scholarship, which is in honor of Begnaud who was a member of Local #66 in Texas. Begnaud served on ILRA's board, Advisory Committee, as event coordinator, and as chief judge of the International Lineman's Rodeo, which he helped judge for years. In 2003, the ILRA added four more scholarships, and finally in 2004, the association increased the total to 10.

Scholarship candidates must meet certain criteria: be a son or daughter of a journeyman lineman or be recommended by a journeyman lineman; have a high school diploma or equivalent GED; submit a letter of recommendation from their high school advisor or GED advisor and a friend or relative; and write a letter to the ILRA scholarship committee on why they should be selected to receive the scholarship. Each letter is read by the five members on the Scholarship Committee, who score each applicant based on need and the overall candidate's credentials.

Approximately 40 students from about 30 linemen colleges apply for the ILRA scholarships every year. This year, the following students were awarded the scholarships:

  • Dan Malone, Manhattan Area Technical College — Billy Begnaud Scholarship

  • Justin Homan, Linn State Tech College — ILRA Scholarship

  • Todd Pfeil, Northeast Community College — ILRA Scholarship

  • Jonathan Steinlage, Manhattan Area Technical College — ILRA Scholarship

  • Clint Edwards, Utah Valley State University — ILRA Scholarship

  • James Whitaker, Oklahoma State University — ILRA Scholarship

  • Gregory Weber, Moraine Park Technical College — ILRA Scholarship

  • Beau Keiser, Metropolitan Community College — ILRA Scholarship

  • Aaron Baker, Manhattan Area Technical College — ILRA Scholarship

  • Jeremy Carron, Northwest Iowa Community College — ILRA Scholarship.

The scholarships were presented at the International Lineman's Rodeo awards banquet, with several students in attendance. “This was the first rodeo that I had ever attended, and it was so exciting,” says Jeremy Carron, a scholarship winner in the Northwest Iowa Community College lineman's program. “We even got to attend the barbecue on Friday night. That was cool to get a chance to see all of the shirts that had been made. We got to see the parachuters come down, we ate wonderful barbecue, and visited with other linemen and their families.”

Carron is thrilled he won an ILRA scholarship and expects to graduate from line college in May 2006. He is looking forward to starting his apprenticeship. “I get so excited when I see a lineman going out to work on a line,” he notes. “Sometimes I follow them and park on the other side of the street and just watch them work.”

LINEMEN AID IN KATRINA RESTORATION EFFORTS

Prior to the International Lineman's Rodeo, Hurricane Katrina swept through several states, leaving thousands of people without power. Furthermore, Hurricane Rita was fast approaching U.S. landfall near when the rodeo was taking place. In the face of such hardship, many utility companies, cooperatives and local unions stepped up to help restore power to those areas that had been hit. That meant some companies were not able to compete in this year's rodeo.

The last two years with the catastrophic hurricanes, many of the competitors could not compete, so the normal numbers of 235 journeyman teams and 275 apprentices dropped down to around 160 journeyman teams and 175 apprentices.

Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OGE) was one of the companies that had to drop out of the rodeo after sending 53 distribution linemen and 23 transmission linemen to help Cleco and Entergy with restoration efforts.

Rick Berg, who coordinates OGE's participation in the rodeo and serves as the utility's storm lead when it goes off system, says he had a lot invested in both the show and the storm restoration activities. “I felt that our response to the hurricanes was priority one,” Berg notes.

After much discussion, OGE managers agreed that the company would not compete in this year's rodeo. The OGE linemen who had qualified to represent the company at the rodeo supported the decision. OGE plans to send those linemen who were to compete or judge this year to next year's rodeo to represent the company.

Westar Energy, of Topeka, Kansas, U.S., sent more than 125 linemen and support staff to Louisiana to assist Entergy. Despite sending so many linemen, Westar Energy was still able to team up linemen to compete in the rodeo. “They just weren't necessarily on teams they'd planned to be on and participated in the rodeo events with linemen they had never worked with or practiced with before,” explains Moe Alters, who coordinates the company's participation in the rodeo.

For Local 126 IBEW, a local construction union in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, U.S., this was to be its first year competing in the rodeo. “We worked very hard raising the US$10,000 or so it takes to send a couple teams,” notes Steven Sarno, president and assistant business manager of Local 126 IBEW. “After we made all of our arrangements, Katrina comes, and the linemen go. In the construction side of line work, it is feast or famine. These guys are not guaranteed 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.

“All of the linemen we were going to bring to the rodeo, even our backups, went on [to work the] storm, so it was very disappointing,” Sarno adds. However, Local 126 IBEW was able to bring a couple of apprentices to compete. And, the group expects to compete in the rodeo next year. That is, Sarno says, “If nature lets our linemen have some fun for a couple of days.”

WINNERS OF THE 2005 INTERNATIONAL LINEMAN'S RODEO

Journeyman Event Winners
Top Journeyman Overall
Place Company Team Members
1st Georgia Power Cochran, Crosby, Buchanan
2nd Savannah Electric Hendrick, Hall, Gracen
3rd Georgia Power Stover, Autry, Brown
4th Southern California Edison Lekvold, Lee, Petersen
5th Xcel Energy Lensen, Kennedy, Kernan
Journeyman Division Winners
1st Place Company Team Members
Investor-Owned Georgia Power Cochran, Crosby, Buchanan
Municipal CPS Energy Haese, Berger, White
REA EMC & Co-op Guadalupe Valley Electric Hernandez, Perry, Land
Senior Georgia Power McDowell, Bostic, Brightwell
Pole Climb
Place Company Team Members
1st National Grid O'Brian, Richardson, Burke
2nd Xcel Energy Sallee, Hatfield, Samaron
3rd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 West, Wheeler, Perez
Hurt Man Rescue
Place Company Team Members
1st Georgia Power Stover, Autry, Brown
2nd Southern California Edison Lekvold, Lee, Petersen
3rd Gainesville Regional Utilities Shiskin, Thomas, Jester
Mystery Event 1: Insulator Replacement
Place Company Team Members
1st Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Wright, Houle, Braun
2nd Kansas City Power & Light Jackson, Jones, Spor
3rd Georgia Power Cochran, Crosby, Buchanan
Mystery Event 2: Dead-End Insulator Replacement
Place Company Team Members
1st Georgia Power Culverhouse, Hamrick, Guilfoyle
2nd Savannah Electric Hendrick, Hall, Gracen
3rd Georgia Power Cochran, Crosby, Buchanan
Apprentice Event Winners
Top Apprentice Overall
Place Company Team Members
1st Georgia Power Scotty Burkes
2nd Xcel Energy James Bach
3rd Tillamook Peoples Utility District John Yats
4th Benton Harbor Line Dept. Rob Mills
5th AEP Bob Little
Apprentice Division Winners
1st Place Company Team Members
Investor-Owned Georgia Power Scotty Burkes
Municipal Tillamook Peoples Utility District John Yats
REA EMC & Co-op Snapping Shoals EMC Byron Burke
Contractor IBEW 11th District Todd Jamieson
Written Test
Place Company Apprentice
1st Xcel Energy James Bach
2nd Georgia Power Scotty Burkes
3rd Georgia Power Tim Heath
Pole Climb
Place Company Team Members
1st Ameren Joey Prenger
2nd San Diego Gas & Electric Dan Sherlock
3rd PacifiCorp Jesse Nielsen
Hurt Man Rescue
Place Company Team Members
1st Georgia Power Jesse Brock
2nd Cobb EMC Willie Nelson
3rd AEP Bob Little
Mystery Event 1: CPR
Place Company Team Members
1st Omaha Public Power District Matt Wilken
2nd Tillamook Peoples Utility District John Yats
3rd Georgia Power Scotty Burkes
For complete results of all the events, visit www.linemansrodeokc.com/2005results.html.