Linemen compete in ‘rodeo’

Published 10:28 pm Thursday, April 10, 2014

Three apprentice linemen from Community Electric Cooperative were among more than 120 competitors at the 12th annual Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo, held April 4 and 5 at the Caroline County Agricultural Fairgrounds near Ruther Glen.

Eric Thiede of Community Electric Cooperative in Windsor works against the clock at the top of a pole during the 12th annual Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo in Ruther Glen recently.

Eric Thiede of Community Electric Cooperative in Windsor works against the clock at the top of a pole during the 12th annual Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo in Ruther Glen recently.

The only event of its type in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Gaff-n-Go Lineman’s Rodeo offers professional linemen the opportunity to demonstrate their technical skills as they perform a variety of designated electric line-work tasks. Their performances are timed and scored, with safe work practices the most important factor in judging.

“This event promotes teamwork, as well as safety,” said Steven A. Harmon, CEC’s president and CEO, who served as a lineman earlier in his career.

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“The job line crews do to keep the lights on is a hazardous one. Despite working in all types of weather to restore service, CEC linemen have maintained our co-op’s outstanding record of safety.”

Each year, co-ops participating in the Gaff-n-Go Rodeo hold an informal contest of lineman-inspired T-shirt designs. Standing out from the pack this year were CEC’s apprentices, who designed and wore pink T-shirts in honor of a board member who recently battled breast cancer.

“Our guys came up with the idea of a shirt that promotes breast cancer awareness,” said Harmon, who fielded numerous inquiries from other rodeo attendees who wanted a shirt.

The rodeo also received formal recognition from Virginia Public Safety and Homeland Security Secretary Brian J. Moran, who read aloud a proclamation from Gov. Terry McAuliffe, declaring April 5 as “Electric Utility Lineman Day” in the commonwealth.

“We just suffered through a pretty extreme winter,” Moran told participants at the kickoff to the rodeo. “The importance of the job you do has become very clear to me, to ensure the safety of our public, to make sure the lights stay on and that heat continues to be generated.”

Headquartered in Windsor, Community Electric Cooperative is a nonprofit, member-owned energy provider that serves nearly 11,000 homes, farms and businesses in Suffolk, Isle of Wight, Southampton, Surry and Sussex.