MDOT Holds State Roadeo Finals In Gulfport

GULFPORT (WLOX) -- There are no horses, but lots of horse power to be found at the Mississippi Department of Transportation's state roadeo finals.

"We have six districts," says Roadeo Coordinator Mark McConnell. "There are 12 guys from each district competing. We add up the scores and the winning team has bragging rights for the next year. And they brag big time."

Their fan base is mostly built in. From daddy's little girls, to supportive spouses.

When Aleisha Hankins of Crowder was asked how good her daddy was, she smiled and said, "Really good!"

"Yeah, of course he's good," says Onetta Fulgham of McComb. "I'll have to brag on him. He's done been to regionals twice."

Behind the wheels of the equipment they use every day, the state's top equipment operators execute precision maneuvers that even MDOT's top dog would be hard pressed to pull off.

"Well, I can drive a backhoe, kind of," says MDOT Executive Director Larry "Butch" Brown. "I don't think I could do as well as they do with the golf balls and the maneuverability of the equipment."

While the competition may look like a construction project, these competitors see the obstacles in their paths through a different set of eyes.

"If that was say a Mercedes Benz and a Thunderbird setting on each end there, you've got to miss them," says competitor Tucker Shows of Hattiesburg. "It makes a big difference. You look at it as a barrel, but sometime you've got to get a truck in a tight spot with cars in the way, so it teaches you a lot."

And that, says roadeo coordinator Mark McConnel, is the main purpose.

"They don't realize that it is training," says McConnell. "It's fun. Their families come out and watch. We promote safety and the skill level has gone up tremendously and you can see it on the job every day."

The top two finishers in each category will go on to the regional competition this fall in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.