Every year, crews from all over the Pacific Northwest – those who install and maintain electric utility lines – gather for a friendly competition at the eastern edge of Southeast Portland.
This year, the 26th annual "Pacific Northwest Lineman Rodeo" took place at the Portland General Electric (PGE) outdoor training facility on S.E. Powell Boulevard, on Saturday, July 27.
"This year, nine electric utilities from Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, and Utah have sent 350 journeyman linemen and apprentices to the competition," announced event chair Joel Wallace, a PGE lineman stationed in Salem.
"The judges are all volunteers, linemen in the trade, from all over the Pacific Northwest," Wallace told THE BEE. "In the various challenges, they judge safety, precision, and the technique used to complete the tasks, as set out in the competition rulebook."
Colten Hevern, a competitor who works out of PGE's inner Southeast Portland facility on S.E. 17th Avenue, finished a challenge in record time; and, with his partner, scored highly in both safety and sequence categories.
"I've been doing this for about three years now," Hevern confided after climbing down the pole. "I decided to do this because my dad told me 'Do something that not every man can do, and you'll always have a job'."
The work isn't for everyone, Hevern pointed out. "If you're to do this, go into it wholeheartedly; don't do it partway, just for the paycheck.
"It's not always easy; it's seldom glamorous; but it's worth it in the end. It's a very prideful job," Hevern grinned. "We love doing what we're doing. I really enjoy the camaraderie; the brotherhood aspect of it – so, for me, it's a great occupational choice."
By the way, along with linemen Cody Bell and Hank Williams, Hevern's "Team #118" ranked #2 overall, out of 20 teams that day.
Beyond titles, trophies, and bragging rights, all proceeds from the Lineman Rodeo go to support the Legacy Oregon Burn Center – this year, they were expecting to raise $30,000 – including sales from the "Lineman's Café", which was run by volunteers from IBEW Local 125.
All day long, up and down the utility poles went the competitors, demonstrating the speed, safety, skill and strength they use every day to keep our lights on.
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