EPHRATA - Local linemen are gearing up for the Andrew York Linemen Rodeo in Wenatchee this weekend.
Grant County PUD is sending three teams of utility workers to the event, which includes activities for the entire family Saturday at Walla Walla Point Park, starting with a welcoming ceremony at 8 a.m.
From the Moses Lake Service Center, journeymen Ryan Bingham and Wayne Black are accompanied by apprentice Kurt Myers on one team, while the other team consist of journeymen Jeff Charpentier and Ed Olson joined by Josh Burnside with Avista Utilities out of Spokane.
Journeymen Scott Elliott, Rodney Fronsman and Dan Beierman will represent the Ephrata service center.
The rodeo includes numerous competitions in team and apprentice lineman categories, including a speed climb and pole top rescue, along with a "mystery event," which teams learn more about on Saturday.
Elliott, who joined Beierman and Fronsman to do some training at the Ephrata pole yard Wednesday evening, said the team will probably get together one more time before the big day.
"This is stuff you do every day, but repetition makes you faster and communication is key," he said.
Last year the Ephrata crew placed second overall out of 13 teams, but Beireman said the competition could be a bit more fierce this year, with 29 teams represented from across the country.
"Interest in this rodeo has really taken off over the past few years," he said.
The York rodeo isn't the only competition Grant PUD lineman have done well at.
For the last two years, local teams placed third in the annual Governor's Industrial Safety and Health Conference in Tacoma, advancing to the international conference in Kansas City.
At last year's conference, Elliott and Beierman placed in the upper ranks despite competing with hundreds of teams, many of which hailed from much larger municipalities.
One common rodeo event has linemen climb a pole with a bagged egg, hang the bag and climb back down with the egg in their mouth - all without racking up points deductions by slipping or causing the fragile item to break, Beierman said.
Elliot said in his younger days he could climb a 40 foot pole in 16 seconds, and can still do it in about 22 seconds.
But, says Beierman, "It's better to be slow with no deductions than fast with deductions."
Rodeo competitions in general test workers' ability to perform their jobs safely, quickly and efficiently to resolve problems, according to Elliott. They also provide an opportunity to improve on skills and share expertise with other professionals.
"It's just something you hear about and want to be a part of," Elliott said, adding the team likes to throw their support behind the good cause of this weekend's event.
The Andrew York Linemen Rodeo commemorates the memory of a Chelan County PUD lineman who was struck by a drunk driver while working in Sunnyslope in July 2000. The event raises public awareness about the deaths and injuries caused by impaired driving, according to organizers. It also helps raise money for the Andrew York Memorial Scholarship Fund, which supports high school seniors who have been active in the community, specifically in preventing drug and alcohol abuse.
For more information, visit www.ayrodeo.com.