Community Electric technicians to fly drones at utility worker competition

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Two technicians from Windsor-based Community Electric Cooperative – Flynn Gladden and Evan Wagensomer – will compete May 17 in the 20th annual Gaff-n-Go Rodeo, an event showcasing the skills of utility line workers. 

Gladden and Wagensomer will each compete in the new drone operator event that has been added this year due to expanded use of aerial inspections. Electric cooperatives in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware collectively have more than 100 licensed drone pilots on staff.

This year’s Gaff-n-Go will be held at Meadow Event Park in Doswell, more than 95 miles northwest of Windsor.

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“We are excited to celebrate 20 years of honoring our line workers with this competition, which gives their family members an opportunity to see the work they perform — with an emphasis on safety — during the worst weather,” said Brian Mosier, president and CEO of the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, host of the Gaff-n-Go Rodeo. “The quality of this event and teamwork behind putting it all together has taken this rodeo to new heights. We have far surpassed last year’s record numbers and look forward to working with Altec to maintain the Gaff-n-Go’s reputation as one of the premier industry rodeos in the U.S.”

The events begin Friday morning following the opening ceremony and national anthem performance by Nashville recording artist Will Reid, a lineman for BARC Electric Cooperative in Millboro, Virginia. Saturday features the main events, during which linemen climb utility poles and perform a variety of tasks to simulate real-life scenarios.

Apprentices compete individually, while journeymen work in teams of three. Competition begins after a special tribute to the U.S. military for Armed Forces Day. Weather permitting, personnel from the National Security Innovations Network will hold the U.S. flag from a hovering drone during “The Star-Spangled Banner” at 7:45 a.m. The first 1,000 attendees will receive a small American flag to hold up during the ceremony.

“This event and its judging are based on safety and accuracy,” says VMDAEC Vice President of Safety and Training Alan Scruggs. “Competitors aspire for a perfect score. Speed is secondary in every event but those involving a rescue of an injured worker. It’s not just speed there, either; it’s about doing it correct and efficiently.”

Many Gaff-n-Go Rodeo competitors will continue on to the International Lineman’s Rodeo in Bonner Springs, Kansas, in mid-October.

Attendees will witness line workers competing while performing industry tasks from a raised bucket truck or atop utility poles 40 feet up. The family-friendly and free event also features a variety of activities for children of all ages, including face painting, in the kids area sponsored by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, featuring Virginia 811 and Choptank Electric Cooperative.

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