Rodeos for utility workers showcase skills and create camaraderie
At a series of utility-worker rodeo events over the past few months, dozens of Xcel Energy teams squared off in competitions to test their work skills, create camaraderie and showcase their talents for family, friends and community members.
The annual Gas Hog Rodeo in Colorado is a strenuous competition involving most of the tasks confronted daily by natural gas employees in the field, such as cutting pipes and digging four-foot by three-foot holes. This year’s gas rodeo involved five different events, requiring a combination of brains, skill and brawn. They included completing a meter set, a hand dig, a 16-inch gate valve, a six-inch pipe cut and a final relay.
The relay includes, among other tasks, backing a truck and trailer into a narrow gap and using a backhoe to pick up a soccer ball and drop it into a trash can. The hand-dig and pipe-cut are physically demanding events that find teams striving to furiously move pea gravel with shovels in one and slicing through a metal pipe in the latter.
On the electric side of the business, “lineman’s rodeos” are competitions that measure the concentration, skill, speed and safety with which lineworkers perform their daily tasks. A pair of events in Colorado and Texas each featured six events for three-person teams, as well as six events for apprentices, who compete as individuals.
Those events focus on the correct construction of electric-service facilities, and safe and quick restoration of damaged services. The fast-paced contests include races up and down utility poles (without breaking an egg that needs to be hauled by each contestant) and simulated rescues of injured or “hurt-men” dummies from atop poles.
As a reward for high-placing participants, every year Xcel Energy sends lineworkers and gas utility workers to compete in national rodeo competitions for both electric and natural gas skills. This year’s National Gas Rodeo was held this fall in Springfield, Missouri. And for lineworkers, the International Lineman’s Rodeo has been held annually since 1964 near Kansas City, Kansas.
This year in Kansas, there were 242 teams and 366 apprentices representing utilities from across the country. Seven teams and six apprentices represented Xcel Energy at the international rodeo by qualifying at the regional rodeos in Colorado and Texas. And in Missouri, four teams of Xcel Energy gas workers competed, after winning at the Colorado Gas Hog Rodeo.
“It’s a cool experience – getting to see everyone put their skills to the test in timed events,” said one competitor. “And at the end of the day, it’s just about having fun.”
Below is a set of photos from various electric and natural gas rodeos.