by Rebecca Band
When they’re working in the field, PG&E gas crews generally like to take their time and do the job right. Safety and accuracy matter more than rapidity when it comes to tasks like installing new gas service for a customer.
But at the Second Annual PG&E/IBEW Gas Rodeo on May 21 in Livermore, speed was the name of the game as the gas workers raced against their peers in a friendly yet stiff competition. 13 teams laced up their boots, kicked up some dirt and battled it out for the grand prize — a chance to compete in the National Gas Rodeo in Denver at the end of August.
“Without the IBEW, this event never would have happened,” said IBEW 1245 Business Manager Tom Dalzell, noting the important role that the union played in launching the annual PG&E/IBEW Gas Rodeo last year. “We see it as another unique way to build solidarity among our members. The element of competition is fun, but truthfully, everybody here wins today, because they get a chance to showcase their craft.”
The five 2-person teams and eight 4-person teams competed in four different qualifying events – the meter set build, service install, pipe cut and hand dig – and sent dirt flying in all directions as they endeavored to secure the fastest time with the fewest penalties.
“My favorite event is the pipe cut,” said Michael Moore, a Rocklin GC Gas Construction Operator who competed on the Wild Hogs team at the Rodeo. “It’s the fastest pace, it’s intense, and it definitely takes every guy on the crew to finish it off right.”
Moore brought his wife and two young children out to watch and cheer him on.
“I’ve always loved to compete, so it’s great to have this opportunity through work, and to be able to show my family what I do,” Moore said as he bounced his daughter in his arms. “It’s nice to have a chance to show your skills and represent your yard.”
At the end of the qualifying round, the top ranking teams moved on to the final relay event, which consisted of six obstacles: truck and trailer back-up, backhoe, pipe squeeze, mini-excavator, regulator bypass and water cooler. To make it interesting, the Rodeo also included one “Wild Card” event, where the teams whose qualifying scores weren’t high enough were given one last chance to win a spot in the final.
“We didn’t do as well as we had hoped. We definitely did better in practice,” Gas Construction Operator Sarah Lee, who completed on the Honey Badgers team, said as she waited for the scores to be tabulated. “We got stuck on some stuff that was unexpected. Our wire got caught up on the service run, and that cost us a full minute. It was a little frustrating, but that’s how it is in the field. Things change, or they aren’t how they’re supposed to be when you dig it up, and you just have to figure out how to do it.”
On the other side of the training facility, individuals representing almost every division participated in the first annual Locate and Mark Rodeo, which took place in conjunction with the Gas Rodeo. The Locators competed in several different events, including the daunting “Locate From Hell,” named because the Locators only had three minutes to complete the challenge, compared to the 12 minutes they were given on the other events. The “Locate From Hell” didn’t count towards the total score, but was included to provide the competitors with the sort of experience they would need to face a similar speed challenge at the National Locate Rodeo, which will be held in Dallas this summer.
As a co-sponsor of the event, IBEW 1245 had a strong presence, with Senior Assistant Business Manager Joe Osterlund delivering a warm welcome at the beginning of the day, and several Business Reps serving as judges. The union also had a booth in the vendor display area, where union members chatted with spectators and other members about the “Control the Pressure” peer safety program.
“Several people stopped by the booth to talk about gas safety or just grab a free hat and a Tootsie Pop,” said IBEW 1245 Business Rep Rich Lane. “Control the Pressure committee members and Local 1245 Safety Stewards, including Adam Weber, Ernie Pena, Matt Davis, Roy Cabral and Keith Hopp, took turns manning the booth, so they also had a chance watch the competition.”
In addition to the competition itself, there were also plenty of other activities for the families, including vendor tents, an exciting raffle, photo booth with props, some tasty eats and lots of fun stuff for the kids. The face-painting, mechanical bull and rock-climbing wall were big hits with the older children, and the giant sandbox with a great selection of digging toys kept the younger ones entertained.
At the end of the day, the winners were announced. The Natural Born Tappers and the Lakeville Cowboys placed first and second, respectively, in the four-person team division, while the GC Regulators and Manteca Elite placed first and second in the two-person team division. All four teams will be headed to the National Gas Rodeo in Colorado in August. Additionally, the top two Gas Locators, Trevor Robertson and Wendell Brown, as well as the top two Electric Locators, Efrain Nava and Shane Keyser, will be heading to the International Locate Rodeo in Dallas this summer. Congratulations to all the competitors!
Photos by John Storey