“It’s not easy, day to day, to get an upclose and personal look at what lineworkers do,” said Carolyn Justice-Hinson, communications and community relations officer at Fayetteville Public Works Commission. “In their day to day, it is very dangerous and you don’t want people observing in harm’s way. But (this competition) is a safe environment to watch what they do and learn more about it.” Thursday, May 16, the public is invited to the Military Business Park off Santa Fe Drive to check out the 2019 Annual North Carolina Association of Municipal Electric Systems Lineman Rodeo. The event is free to attend.
Fayetteville last hosted the NCAMES Lineman Rodeo in 2002. Before that, it hosted the very first rodeo in 1998. “Many years ago, (NCAMES) decided to do the rodeo to showcase what electric systems do here in North Carolina to keep the lights on,” Justice-Hinson said. Participants, in the division of either Journeyman or Apprentice, compete in events that display the specialized skills and knowledge they apply in their everyday work. They’re scored on safety procedures, work practices, equipment handling and timeliness.
The rodeo kicks off at 8 a.m. with a brief opening ceremony featuring the Golden Knights, which is the U.S. Army parachute team; the 82nd Airborne Division “All-American” Chorus; and remarks by Mayor Mitch Colvin. The competitive events begin around 8:30 a.m. and last until approximately 2 p.m.
Events include the Hurtman Rescue, Transformer Load Switching, Three-Phase Fuse Replacement, 4KV Single Phase Pole Transfer, URB Elbow Replacement, and Alley Arm Center Phase Insulator Change. Most involve climbing, with equipment, 40-foot utility poles and remaining stable and in place while performing timesensitive, technical work — then quickly descending back to the ground. The longest events of the rodeo have “drop-dead,” or cut-off, times of 20 minutes. The shortest and most popular event, the Hurtman Rescue, has a drop-dead time of 6 minutes, with points being deducted after the 4-minute mark.
“You won’t see this anywhere else; it’s a one-ofa- kind event that you really have to come and see to appreciate,” Justice-Hinson said. “I personally am amazed when I watch them climb the poles because it takes so much physical strength to climb and stay on the pole, let alone actually do the work once they’re up there. It’s very athletic. … It’s a fun event.”
She added that people bring lawn chairs and blankets for comfy viewing, that there will be lots of interesting equipment on display, and that at least four local food trucks will be present, too.
Carey Jacobs, PWC’s senior technical resources technician, said organizers are expecting more than 100 competitors from electric system cities across the state. “These are cities that have their own electric systems, like Fayetteville,” Justice-Hinson explained. “Other cities (that have their own electric systems) include Rocky Mount, New Bern, Greenville, Wilson and High Point, to name a few.”
The first- and second-place Apprentice and Journeyman, the third-place Journeyman and the Journeyman alternate winners will be recognized at 6 p.m. at the nearby Embassy Suites Convention Center. The winners will go on to compete as a team representing NCAMES at the national level, at the 2020 American Public Power Association Lineworkers Rodeo in Kansas City, Kansas.
“I would love to see a lot of people come out and support not only PWC lineworkers but the ones coming from across the state,” Justice-Hinson said. “A lot of these cities have come to help PWC during emergencies, and we’ve done the same thing for other cities.
“These guys go out in some of the worst conditions — whether it be cold or rain or wind. They’re the ones out there getting services back on and keeping your services on.”
Speaking of the most recent major weather emergency lineworkers had to deal with, Hurricane Florence, she said, “In that one, we had municipal electric workers from other states. Because so much of North Carolina was impacted, everyone was kind of dealing with their own system. We had lineworkers from Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia that came and helped in North Carolina.”
Another plus to the event, Justice-Hinson said, is it provides an exploration opportunity for those considering a career in the field. “There is a shortage of lineworkers,” she said. “It’s kind of an aging workforce. Every company is going to be looking for lineworkers in the future. ... (This event) is a way for people to come out and see what’s happening and talk to lineworkers.
Fayetteville Technical Community College, which PWC collaborated with to create a lineworkers training program, will also be at the rodeo with information. “(PWC) has hired several people from this program, and this last FTCC class (to graduate from the program), every one of them was placed and got a job,” Justice-Hinson said. “I think there were 10 or 12 of them.
“It’s a really inexpensive course, it’s provided here locally, and it’s a really good bet for getting a job.” The course lasts eight to 10 weeks. To learn more, visit www.faytechcc.edu/corporatecontinuing-education/corporate-industrytraining/ and scroll down to “Line Worker Basic Training Course.”
The two days leading up to the rodeo, May 14 and 15, NCAMES will host its 58th Annual Engineering and Operations Conference, which draws 300-400 utility directors, engineers, linemen and all types of municipal employees involved in electric systems each year. The conference will be held near the rodeo grounds, at the Embassy Suites Convention Center, 4760 Lake Valley Dr. Attendees will receive industry updates on topics like issues and trends within public power, mutual aid response and new technology.
The rodeo grounds in Military Business Park will be easy to spot, with rows of 40-foot utility poles in place. The park is located off Santa Fe Drive. FTCC’s CollisionU center, at 2821 Procurement Circle, is located within the park for people who would like an address to put into their GPS. For more information, visit www.ncames.com or call PWC at 910-483-1382.