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Walton EMC apprentices test skills at lineman’s rodeo

If you’re driving through the country about halfway between Perry and Marshallville and suddenly run upon a thick forest of utility poles, chances are you’ve found the site of the Georgia Lineman’s Rodeo.

This annual competition draws linemen from across Georgia who showcase their skills in and knowledge of electrical linework. A special emphasis is put on safety, just as it is in every lineman’s day-to-day routine.

Two divisions make up the contest. The apprentice division accommodates newer linemen who are still learning and honing their skills. The journeyman division is for seasoned veterans of line work.

Apprentices compete individually while journeymen compete in three-person teams. Of 141 apprentices competing, Walton EMC fielded 16 for this year’s event – the most in the co-op’s history.

“It was so much fun having a good group to compete,” says team coach and former Lineman’s Rodeo champion Adam Simmons. “We built momentum from six competitors last year. These guys want to better themselves and see how they measure against other linemen.”

Apprentice competitors complete four different events, three of which are known: the hurtman rescue, where contestants “rescue” a life-sized dummy from the top of a utility pole; a lighting arrestor change out; and a written test. The remaining two events are surprises until the rodeo.

All the events (except the written test) are performed while manually climbing the poles. No bucket trucks are allowed.

Competing in the rodeo has practical benefits both for the linemen and Walton EMC. “The constant practice for the rodeo and doing things over and over makes them more efficient,” says Simmons. “They learn little tricks and ask themselves ‘How can I do this more efficiently?’ It rolls over to the field. They take what they learn from the competitive environment and use it every day.”

Simmons already has an eye toward next year. “We had a lot of new guys compete this year and a lot of good times in the events. There were probably 10 of our apprentices that could have walked away with it. They’ll be ready next year with their first competition out of the way. I hope it continues to gain steam.”