The International Lineman's Rodeo Consistently Draws an Enthusiastic Crowd of hardworking journeymen and apprentice linemen who have been looking forward to competing against the industry's best all year long. This year, a highlight of the rodeo was the 25th anniversary celebration.

For 25 years, linemen have been attending the rodeo not only for the competition, but also for the camaraderie and to support their fellow linemen. From the rodeo's humble beginnings of approximately 30 competitors back in 1983 to this year's whopping 840 competitors, the rodeo just keeps growing stronger. For this year's event, which was held Sept. 13, linemen traveled to Bonner Springs, Kansas, U.S., from places far and near, eager to show off their talents and support their teammates no matter what the circumstances.

And the circumstances this year were rather wet. Rain poured all weekend, but despite the dreary conditions, the linemen's spirits were high and unaffected by the weather. After all, they are used to working in far-from-ideal conditions. The weather was no obstacle for the loyal rodeo goers, either. They trekked the grounds holding umbrellas and wearing boots and raincoats for the most part, though some roughed it in sandals.

The bad weather was not exclusive to Kansas. At the time of the rodeo, Hurricane Ike struck the the Texas coast. Several linemen and teams who had signed up to compete had to go help with the devastation in Texas.

“One of my apprentices left last night. He had to go, so he is not competing today,” noted John Bellows, a chief judge for the rodeo. “He is out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. He has got nine crews heading for Houston. I've got 35 apprentices in six states right now working storm damage. I have over 100 apprentices and 35 are working with the storm coverage.”

THE VOICE OF THE RODEO

Having judged at the rodeo for eight years, Bellows has some noteworthy stories. One really sticks out in his mind. When he was judging the hurt-man competition one year, where the lineman carries a raw egg in his mouth, Bellows saw one of the competitors fall 40 ft (12 m) onto the hard ground. “The man did it in 11 seconds, and he did not break the egg,” Bellows recalled. “I was going to try to give him some extra credit for that.”

This story is one of many that make up the long history of the International Lineman's Rodeo. Another important piece of history to the rodeo is Mike Willman, now retired from Kansas City Power & Light (Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.), where he worked in external communications. Willman's is the booming voice at the rodeo that comes out over the speakers. He has been announcing at the rodeo for 20 years now.

“Over the 20 years, somehow I became kind of the voice of the rodeo,” noted Willman. “I'm the one that tells the teams where they need to be and tries to find lost kids at the lost and found here — the important things that nobody else wants to do.”

Willman also plays the music that keeps the rodeo atmosphere so lively (outside of the rodeo, he plays lead guitar for The Blackouts). Willman has loved his rodeo role as disc jockey and announcer, and he truly enjoys seeing the linemen compete. “You come out and see how skilled they are and how athletic this whole thing is. There is something that you just get caught up in,” he said.

A Long History

People all over the U.S. Agricultural Hall of Fame grounds were getting caught up in the whole experience, as well. Linemen were gladly sharing with T&D World fond memories about the rodeo that they had accumulated over the last 25 years. Through the hustle of the linemen moving from event to event, an elderly, grinning face stood out in the crowd, that of R.E. “Cotton” Boyce.

Boyce is a warm-hearted lineman who has been retired for 20 years. He was a general foreman with Southwest Public Service in Canyon, Texas. Boyce makes it a point to come and watch the rodeo every year. He has seen a plethora of changes in the industry and in the rodeo itself over the years. Boyce talked about the big differences from when he was a lineman. “When I was a general lineman, the only buckets we had were to carry water in,” he recalled. He described how the linemen also were paid in cents per hour, and the general linemen were thrown in the back of the truck on the way to the work sites.

Hearing Boyce's firsthand experiences provides great insight as to how the electric power industry has really improved in the last 25 years and beyond. Boyce started in the industry in 1948, and he is still keeping up with the changes and men who keep it alive. As exemplified by Boyce, the rodeo is a great place for linemen, whether they are currently working or retired, to stay connected.

YEARS OF SERVICE

Judges are another vital organ to the rodeo. They make sure that the rodeo is a success by focusing on being fair, educating the linemen about line safety and making sure that the linemen are being taken seriously. Gilbert Balfour was one of the chief judges this year and has been involved with the rodeo for 19 years.

Balfour, retired from Kansas Power & Light Co., started out as judge on the hurt-man rescue event and then became a floater judge, meaning he judged various events, until 2000. For the last eight years, he has been a judge on the apprentice written test. In fact, he even rewrote the questions on the test with fellow judge Bob Gooner. This year was Balfour's last year judging for the rodeo.

“The memories [of judging for the rodeo] have all been mostly pleasant,” said Balfour. “I've got some real good friendships made from the experience of working down here, met some great linemen and great apprentices. Things are changing constantly, but the same faces still show up.”

AN EXPO JUST FOR LINEMEN

The International Lineman's Rodeo & Expo was originally conceived as a way for lineman to get together, share practices and see the latest in line equipment. This year, nearly 100 exhibitors showcased their products and services for linemen at the expo, held Sept. 11-12. Hubbell was one of the very first exhibitors of the show and has been supporting it ever since.

“We've been involved from day one,” said Hubbell's Dick Erdel. “The rodeo has done nothing but grow. It fills an industry need.”

Whether they're competing in the rodeo, supporting the competitors, judging the events or exhibiting at the expo, those involved have all seen the rodeo steadily grow over the last 25 years. And if that growth is any indicator, the rodeo and expo will surely be around for the next 25 years.


For complete results of all the 2008 International Lineman's Rodeo events, visit www.linemansrodeokc.com.

2008 Lineman's Rodeo Winners

Journeyman Overall

Place Company Team members
1st Georgia Power Stover, Aguilar, Brown
2nd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Wheeler, Claude, Perez
3rd Georgia Power Hendrick, Hall, Gracen
4th Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Wright, Houle, Poudrier
5th Georgia Power Vaught, Barnes, Goodwin
Journeyman Division Winners
1st Place Company Team members
Contractor IBEW Local 17 McKissic, Heimke, Byerly
Investor owned Georgia Power Stover, Aguilar, Brown
Military United States Air Force Guillory, Sanders, Flores
unicipal JEA Sabo, Richardson, Kellogg
REA, EMC and Co-op Greystone Power Costner, Jones, LeCroy
Seniors Indiana Michigan Power Langle, Bennett, Ybarra
Journeyman Pole Climb
Place Company Team members
1st IBEW Local 702 Novak, Byers, Bailey
2nd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Wheeler, Claude, Perez
3rd Licking Valley RECC Murphy, Spencer, Turner
Journeyman Hurt-man Rescue
Place Company Team members
1st Oklahoma Gas & Electric Mullins, Carpenter, Clark
2nd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Wheeler, Claude, Perez
3rd IBEW Local 702 Novak, Byers, Bailey
Mystery Event 1: Replace Poly Insulator
Place Company Team members
1st Georgia Power Stover, Aguilar, Brown
2nd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Wheeler, Claude, Perez
3rd IBEW Local 702 Novak, Byers, Bailey
Mystery Event 2: Replace Damaged Insulator
Place Company Team members
1st Georgia Power Stover, Aguilar, Brown
2nd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Wheeler, Claude, Perez
3rd Georgia Power Hendrick, Hall, Gracen
Apprentice Overall
Place Company Team member
1st Walton EMC Charles West
2nd Xcel Energy Cody Nicholas
3rd Los Angeles Dept. Water & Power Marcelino Basulto
4th Progress Energy Joseph Badger
5th Xcel Energy Matt Winfield
Apprentice Division Winners
1st Place Company Team member
Contractor IBEW 11th District David Kearns
Investor owned Xcel Energy Cody Nicholas
Municipal Los Angeles Dept. Water & Power Marcelino Basulto
REA, EMC and Co-op Walton EMC Charles West
Apprentice Written Test
Place Company Team member
1st Georgia Power Tommy Garrett
2nd Progress Energy Joseph Badger
3rd Walton EMC Charles West
Apprentice Pole Climb
Place Company Team member
1st Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Brandon Evans
2nd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Cory Jansen
3rd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Greg Fish
Apprentice Hurt-man Rescue
Place Company Team member
1st Jackson EMC Jeff Sutton
2nd Walton EMC Bradley McCallister
3rd Jackson EMC Matthew Tolar
Mystery Event: Climbing Skills
Place Company Team member
1st Ameren Bryce Kammerich
2nd Jackson EMC Matthew Tolar
3rd Arizona Public Service/IBEW Local 387 Scott Marlatt
Apprentice CPR
Place Company Team member
1st Duke Energy Midwest Justin Siefert
2nd United Illuminating Steven Fargo
3rd Dominion Jonathan Backus