The International Lineman’s Rodeo is an annual event created, organized, and run by the IBEW—the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Every year, teams of linemen come together from every part of the country and around the world for four days of competition and comradery.
This year’s Lineman’s Rodeo took place on October 10-13 in Overland Park, Kansas. On Wednesday, the judges began setting up the rodeo grounds for the Saturday competitions, and teams started their safety and training programs.
On Thursday, vendors opened their booths for the Lineman’s Rodeo Expo at the Overland Park Convention Center, which is where my journey through the rodeo began. I arrived at the convention center in the afternoon, where I met up with Rick Kozub, our National Sales Director, Shawn Trexler, Production Manager, and Greg Grant, sales representative for the Midwest.
Rick, Shawn, and Greg had been operating the expo booth since the morning, so I jumped right into the show. I spent the rest of the day there talking to linemen who stopped by our booth, as well as meeting some other vendors, Lug-All distributors, and rodeo staff members.
On Friday, the show began at 9:00 AM, and it brought a completely different atmosphere from the day before. Linemen began lining up at the information booth to receive their packets for their competitions the next day. These information packets revealed that the journeyman mystery event would feature a Lug-All Web Strap Winch Hoist for one of the tasks.
With the knowledge that they would be using a Lug-All hoist in the competition, linemen began to flock to our booth. Many linemen wanted to get familiar with the hoists and how they work to prepare for the next day. Rick, Shawn, Greg, and I spent most of the day demonstrating the hoists’ functions to dozens of linemen.
The real excitement began the next day with the actual rodeo competitions. It had rained the day before, and the fairgrounds were muddy, but the general attitude was that the bad weather reflected the unpredictable conditions linemen face regularly. The mud did nothing to deter the competitive spirit, and when we arrived, the events were well underway.
The first event I noticed was the speed climb. A lineman would climb the pole as fast as possible while carrying an egg in a small basket in his teeth. At the top, he would hang the basket on the pole, then place the egg in his mouth and climb back down, being careful not to break it.
Near the entrance to the fairgrounds, several linemen were running the journeyman mystery event. They would climb up the pole and transfer the Lug-All hoist at the top to the opposite line on the pole before completing the rest of the tasks. In another event, linemen would reach the top of a pole in a bucket truck, where they had to recover a weighted, life-sized dummy to simulate rescuing an injured worker.
Even though the teams of linemen are competing against each other in the rodeo events, there is a real sense of brotherhood among the competitors. There’s nowhere that this comradery is more evident than the t-shirt swap. Each team and co-op represented at the rodeo brings a custom t-shirt, and the linemen spend the evening before the competition meeting and swapping shirts with their fellow linemen from around the world.
The lineman’s rodeo is not only a competition, but also resource for linemen and electrical co-ops. It’s an opportunity for linemen from around the world to learn about new equipment and techniques in the industry. It’s a way to focus on safety and safe work practices. It provides a forum for the public to understand and recognize the technical skills required for linework. And it’s an opportunity for participants to have fun while engaging with the worldwide community of electrical line workers.