Backhoes, not horses, were the stars of this 'Roadeo' - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Backhoes, not horses, were the stars of this 'Roadeo'

Others maneuvered lawn equipment through an obstacle course of pylons. (Photo source: WLOX) Others maneuvered lawn equipment through an obstacle course of pylons. (Photo source: WLOX)
Scores of family members attended the event as well to cheer on their loved ones. (Photo source: WLOX) Scores of family members attended the event as well to cheer on their loved ones. (Photo source: WLOX)
Road grade operators tried to knock tennis balls off small perches(Photo source: WLOX) Road grade operators tried to knock tennis balls off small perches(Photo source: WLOX)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

This is the MDOT roadeo, with emphasis on the word road. Dozens of heavy equipment operators from across the state competing against each other and the clock. They do it for one main reason, according to event coordinator Heath Patterson. 

"Well, the role of this event is safety. First and foremost, we want to teach our guys how to operate this equipment properly and so we do that through this event," Patterson explained.

Try picking up a golf ball with a backhoe. It's not easy. And judges are watching closely. One of them is Joe Robinson. "We're grading them on speed. We're grading them on accuracy in the cup, and that's about it."

Knocking tennis balls off a pedestal with a road grader is no piece of cake either. But perhaps the best job belongs to Brian Farris, the MDOT drone operator. "It's pretty neat to see some of the stuff we get. From overhead, it's kind of a different perspective than most people see and we're steadily finding different ways to use that kind of photography," Farris said.

Patterson added that there is a lot at stake here. "The winners from this statewide event go on to compete against ten other states in the regional event in South Carolina later this year."

Sure this roadeo is about competition, and this roadeo is about teaching safety. It's all about showcasing these MDOT worker's skills. But it's also about something else, family.

Kelly Castleberry is the MDOT district engineer. "We do encourage the participants to bring their families. Most of the time, these guys are on the roadway and their families are are at home. This is an opportunity for them to not only showcase the state but also let their families see what they do," Castleberry said.

That includes Abby Hood, watching her dad in action. "Well, I just enjoy being out here with my Dad, and seeing what he does for a living."  

After the competition was over, MDOT workers and their families sat down to a feast of boiled shrimp with all the fixin's.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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