Local PGE Linemen compete in ‘Rodeo’

INCLUDES ‘Yee-Ha’ VIDEO | See why hundreds of ‘lineworkers’ who keep the electricity flowing came to this fascinating competition, held on the edge of outer East Portland …

Families and friends travel to the far eastern edge of outer East Portland to see lineworkers in action at the 2022 “Northwest Lineman Rodeo”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

At a unique rodeo, held on Saturday, July 23rd, there weren’t any buckin’ broncos or calves to be roped – but “speed pole climbing” and “hurt-man rescues” are were just two of the competitive challenges in the 2022 “Northwest Lineman Rodeo” that day.

It was held on the far eastern edge of outer East Portland, at the Portland General Electric (PGE) Lineman Substation – that’s their regional training center, as well as a working electricity distribution hub.

Working the grill in further support their chosen charity are Tommy Jensen from Clark Public Utilities, and local Tommy VanHoon of Portland General Electric.

Since the last such rodeo, held in 2019, the term “lineman” has been updated to “lineworker” – fitting, because more females are now climbing poles and pulling electrical cable.

“Nevertheless, our event is currently still called the ‘Pacific Northwest Lineman Rodeo’, and this is our 28th annual event,” explained PGE Apprentice Coordinator Dawn Miller, who is a member of its planning committee.

Planning Committee member Dawn Miller shows this year’s shirt design.

“At this event, competitors show their families and friends what they do day-to-day,” Miller told East Portland News. “Today, lineworkers from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and other western states are here to compete against one another!”

While these are timed events, Miller pointed out, “The judges are grading primarily on safety. If a competitor does something egregiously wrong, safety-wise, they can be disqualified from that event.”

High above the ground, two teams of lineworkers compete in showing their skills repairing an electrical line, as part of the 2022 Northwest Lineman Rodeo.

The judges also have watch carefully to make sure that every step involved in a particular task has been correctly completed – and in the approved sequence, remarked Miller.

Up and down the poles competitors scrambled, seemingly without effort, likely because strapping on their spikes and clambering utility poles is what they do as journeypersons and apprentice lineworkers on a daily basis.

Watch a sample of the exciting Lineman Rodeo action:

Additionally, vendors set up along the Midway showed crews the latest labor-saving and safety equipment, clothing, and accessories.

“An underlying principle that’s important to us is that all of our proceeds – registration and vendor fees, raffle ticket sales, and donations – all go to support the work of the Oregon Burn Center, as they have from our very first rodeo,” Miller said with pride.

Moments before they climb poles in their next event, Brooklyn’s PGE 17th Avenue Portland Service Center team members stop for a photo: Cody Bell, Hank Williams, and foreman Colten Hevern.

Three stories high in the air, in the “Hurt Man Rescue Lineman” event, PGE 17th Avenue Portland Service Center team member Cody Bell hooks up the “injured” lineworker, preparing to lower the “victim” to the ground.

The local trio we followed, Team #112, who work out of the Brooklyn neighborhood’s 17th Avenue PGE Portland Service Center – Cody Bell, Hank Williams, and foreman Colten Hevern – didn’t have time to chat; they were busy that day!

This team competed in the Cutout Installation, High Line Jumper Replacement, Hurt Man Rescue Lineman, Pole Climb with Raw Egg, and Pole Transfer events. Overall, at the end of the day, they scored 494 out of 500 possible points; and ranked ninth out of 21 teams who came to compete from all over the Pacific Northwest.

When you see a lineworker up on a pole, remember that they’ve been trained to keep your electricity on, and do it with precision, speed, and safety.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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