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Unsung heroes perform in annual Lineworkers’ Rodeo at HGTC

Lineworkers participate in the 21st annual
Lineworkers’ Rodeo at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Conway, SC.
Lineworkers participate in the 21st annual Lineworkers’ Rodeo at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Conway, SC.

Linemen for electric companies are often unsung heroes.

Heck, the only time most people think of electricity is when it’s out.

But for one day a year, the spotlight is on these hard-working men and women as they donned their hard hats Saturday, March 17 to participate in the 21st annual Lineworkers’ Rodeo hosted by Horry-Georgetown Technical College and Santee Cooper.

“It’s just something to kind of show what the actual line work is all about. Most people take for granted the power that’s provided to their home and the guys that actually have to do the work to keep that power on during normal working hours or during restoration process when we have major disasters or something like that,” said Nick Adams, Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina senior safety and training instructor. “It’s just a way to showcase these guys’ skills, some of the unsung heroes that you may see out and about, especially that you are very happy to see when you are without power.”

While Adams trains apprentice and journeyman linemen, the best of the best were competing at HGTC in competitions such as hurt man rescue, obstacle courses, technical events and more.

Clay Crawford, an A Class lineman for Blue Ridge Electric Cooperatives, said the linemen train leading up to the event.

“[We do it] after work hours,” he said. “We’re big on serving our members first and then after that we come and compete and show people what we do for a living.”

The job can be dangerous as linemen climb high poles while doing their work. Are there nerves to it?

“There was a time when you first starting doing it, but it kind of grows on you and you get used to it after a while,” Crawford said.

The setup, which was visible from U.S. 501 on the Conway campus, was anything but a simple procedure, said HGTC Vice President for Academic Affairs Jennifer Wilbanks.

“We have worked and partnered with Santee Cooper for the last month to set up plans from everything from the parking to setting up polls, but really the work’s been completed by Santee Cooper,” Wilbanks said, adding that this was the second year the college hosted the competition.

Said Adams: ‘It probably took about a couple months to get this prepared, which is actually a short amount of time. We were very prepared this year to do this in a short amount of time and luckily the weather was able to cooperate with us.”

Of 53 linemen competing, HGTC grads who work for Santee Cooper finished first, second and third. Regardless, the event each year is a win for all involved.

“Horry Georgetown Tech, they really worked hard to work with the local business and industry, Santee Cooper and other utilities, to really showcase what the field of lineworkers do,” Wilbanks said. “So it’s a great opportunity for the friends and the family to see what the lineworkers do on a regular basis.”

Wilbanks said HGTC would “love to continue the relationship with Santee Cooper and host this event at our campus” in the future.

For now, though, the linemen will go back to being the men and women behind the scenes, something Crawford is perfectly fine with.

“It’s never the same,” he said of what he loves about his job. “Everything is different each and every day.”

Except for once a year, that is.