Clyde - More than 100 North Carolina Department of Transportation employees tested their skills and built new friendships at the Division 14 Roadeo this week.
Motor grader drivers attempted to knock tennis balls off a perch, and backhoe operators lifted golf balls from sand and deposited them in small buckets. Truck and tractor drivers maneuvered obstacle courses and all checked their machines prior to operating as part of a routine safety check.
The Roadeo is an annual event held in each of the NCDOT's 14 divisions across the state. All 112 participants in Division 14, which covers Haywood, Transylvania, Henderson, Polk, Jackson, Macon, Swain, Clay, Graham and Cherokee counties, performed maneuvers and sharpened safety procedures that are typical in their daily operation of machines necessary to develop and maintain roads and highways across the state.
They engage in friendly competition with their co-workers to determine who can best handle a dump truck, tractor, backhoe, low-boy trailer or motor grader through obstacle courses or assignments that model real-life scenarios.
"We were able to promote safety and camaraderie between our division employees," said Joel Poston, the safety officer of Division 14 which covers 10 of the most western counties in North Carolina. "We had more safety training, good friendship and good competition.
"This happens once a year when we get together and folks can show their skills and showcase their talent while promoting safety."
The overall goals of the Roadeo include helping NCDOT workers advance their skills, emphasizing the importance of safety when operating heavy equipment, fostering a sense of team spirit, and recognizing employees who excel at their jobs.
Winners from each Division, including those who earned trophies on Wednesday or Thursday from Division 14, advance to the statewide Roadeo later this summer at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.
First place winners were:
Randy Millsaps, Whittier Bridge - single axle dump truck
Stacy Miller, Cherokee Maintenance - motor grader
Matt Hoyle, Haywood Maintenance - crane
Aaron Martin, Henderson Maintenance - tandem axle dump truck
Verlon Enlow, Cherokee Maintenance - low-boy truck
Toby Wyatt, Haywood Maintenance - backhoe
Mike Pressley, Jackson Maintenance - tractor mower
"We had a good spirit of camaraderie, and hopefully we all picked up some safety pointers," Division 14 engineer Ed Green said. "I personally enjoyed seeing some employees that I don't get to see all the time."