September 29, 2016

Backhoes, Pit Digs And Pipe Cuts: Rounding Up The National Gas Rodeo

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Fifty-five teams from New York to California gathered in Golden, Colorado this August to compete in the National Gas Rodeo. But this isn’t your typical rodeo. There are no horses, no cowboys and no lassos.

Instead, natural gas workers are challenged in speed hand-digs, pipe-cutting contests and backhoe relay races. The rodeo is called the “proving ground” elite gas crews from across the United States.  While this competition is ultimately for “bragging rights,” each event shows off skills that gas workers use in the field every day, said Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of natural gas at Xcel Energy.

Take one of the most difficult tasks in the relay race: the egg lift. One team member needs to pick up an egg with a backhoe and move it without breaking it. “That shows their skill and finesse with that backhoe,” Campbell said.

The contestants are in it to win it, said Rob Hayes, a gas main operator from Laclede Gas in Missouri. Hayes’ team won the championship last year. The rodeo gives them a sense of pride in what they do, he said.

“Everyone here is an athlete,” Hayes said. “It’s gratifying when you can go back to your company and you’re the best at something.”

Check out more about the annual competition in the video above.