20th Gaff-n-Go Rodeo soggy but successful

A little rain did not prevent more than 300 linemen from 11 states from competing in the 20th annual Gaff-n-Go Rodeo last month. The two-day event, held at Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Va., finished with local co-ops taking home top prizes.

Hosted by the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives, Gaff-n-Go is the largest regional rodeo in the country, attracting apprentices and journeyman teams from investor-owned and municipal utilities, electric cooperatives and contractors.

“It’s an honor for us to host this event,” says VMDAEC President and CEO Brian Mosier. “And it wouldn’t be possible without the support of all our employees, volunteers and utility friends.” 

The rodeo began midday Friday with more than 30 teams participating in equipment operator events. Rappahannock Electric Cooperative’s team of Thomas Bailey, Addison Spicer and Alister Pollard took home the top prize for the equipment operator portion of the rodeo, sponsored by Altec.

Spectators gathered to witness a drone competition, during which competitors operated drones through a course simulating aerial inspections of utility poles. Brandon White of Central Virginia Electric Cooperative finished first based on accuracy, clarity and speed. Electric co-ops in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have more than 100 licensed drone pilots on staff and provide training for industry professionals to obtain their UAS Part 107 license from the Federal Aviation Administration.

“This wonderful event continues to set a high bar, especially from the perspective of commitment to safety and excellence,” says Steve Harmon, Gaff-n-Go Rodeo committee chair and  Community Electric Cooperative president and CEO. “It is extremely rewarding, and even somewhat emotional to see the families interact and observe their parent display their skills.”

VMDAEC Vice President of Safety and Training Alan Scruggs presents a check for $6,500 to Kevin Dyson with the Fallen Linemen Foundation.

Friday evening’s BBQ Bash, sponsored by Milwaukee Tool, Terex and Lee Electrical Construction, raised $6,500 for the Fallen Linemen Foundation.

Saturday featured the main events during which linemen climb utility poles and perform a variety of tasks to simulate real-life scenarios. Apprentices competed individually, while journeymen worked in teams of three. The top winner of this year’s journeyman events was the Choptank Electric Cooperative team of Josh McCafferty, Scott Smart and Todd Anderson.

The Choptank team also took home the Jimmy Gardner award for highest-scoring electric cooperative journeyman team from Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Having served most of his long career at Central Virginia Electric Cooperative — founder of the Gaff-n-Go Rodeo — Gardner was one of Virginia’s first electric cooperative lineman and died as the oldest living lineman in the U.S.

“We were thrilled with the organization of the Gaff-n-Go Rodeo, motivated by the enthusiasm of the competitors and attendees, and humbled by the opportunity to support such an amazing event,” says Luke Mansfield, account manager for Altec Industries Inc. “We are looking forward to continuing to support this event for years to come and help to make it the best rodeo in the United States.”

The rodeo concluded its 20th anniversary celebration at the Richmond Marriott. The more than 1,000 people attending the awards banquet were treated to a surprise ending of a documentary about the rodeo’s history when BARC Electric Cooperative lineman and country music artist Will Reid performed his recently released version of the Glen Campbell classic “Wichita Lineman.”

VMDAEC and its member cooperatives thank title sponsor Altec and all the Gaff-n-Go Rodeo sponsors, exhibitors, competitors and their families for making the 20th rodeo the best yet. To view a complete list of this year’s Gaff-n-Go winners, visit www.gaff-n-go.com. The 2025 Gaff-n-Go Rodeo is scheduled for May 16-17.

“We are excited about the incredible growth and look forward to seeing everyone next year,” says Mosier. 

Read more from our participants and their families in the July issue of Cooperative Living magazine.

–Report by Jim Robertson, VMDAEC.