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Lineman's Rodeo unhampered by weather

Competition power poles marked the Chehaw Park landscape Saturday for the 19th annual Georgia Lineman’s Rodeo. Power utility teams from in and out of Georgia came to show their skills win awards.

Competition power poles marked the Chehaw Park landscape Saturday for the 19th annual Georgia Lineman’s Rodeo. Power utility teams from in and out of Georgia came to show their skills win awards.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Despite the rain, turnout was good for the Georgia Lineman's Rodeo, held at Chehaw Park Saturday. But if anyone came looking for bull-riding or lassoing, they may have been disappointed.

Saturday's rodeo was all about local power linemen and the skills they bring to keeping lights and air conditioners running -- and looking out for each other.

According to Jimmy Norman, light director at the Albany Water, Gas & Light Commission and executive chairman of the rodeo committee, this year's event attracted 26 three-person journeyman teams and 38 apprentices.

"They have three events they've had time to train for and one mystery event they didn't know about until they registered on Friday," Norman said. "It's like a no-power call in the middle of the night. We don't even know what it will be until we get there."

For the journeyman competitors, the mystery event turned out to be changing out a solid blade switch. Apprentices were to replace a lightning arrestor.

According to Wesley Payton, a journeyman competitor with Walton EMC in Snellville, the other events for his group included changing an 8-foot crossarm, changing a lightning arrestor and the old stand-by, the hurt man rescue, the most important of all events.

By the book, the hurt man rescue involves a two-man team's attempt to secure and lower a regulation dummy from atop a competition power pole. First, as a safety measure, the ground man de-energizes the transformer by pulling down a large metal switch with an extended plastic pole. After that, the pole man, equipped with tool belt, spiked shoes and a long rope, climbs to save the dummy.

"Half of the rope is wrapped around the dummy's feet," said Wayne Nash, with Cobb EMC in Marietta, and a rodeo judge. "The other part is looped one and a half times around the pole, above the transformer, then looped around the dummy's chest. With the dummy secured, the pole man cuts the safety strap holding (the dummy) on the pole. The friction of the looped rope slows the descent and the ground man pulls his part of the rope to keep the dummy from contact with the pole."

Nash said that injured men are assumed to be unconscious victims of electrocution, and considering the danger still present, firefighters or emergency teams won't attempt a rescue. Only other linemen can do the job.

"We have to get it done in four minutes or less," Payton said. "After that, brain damage can be a factor."

According to Payton, the events are scored on skill of execution, but if the teams don't make mistakes, victory goes to the fastest. Payton said his team wasn't doing as well as they'd hoped this year, but it was only their second year of competition.

"We're just getting our feet wet," he said.

An awards banquet was set for later in the evening, Norman said, to recognize winners in each division as well as overall team winners.