By Tameka Kenan-Norman, City of Rocky Mount NC
Rodeos aren’t just for cowboys, horses and bulls. In fact, Chris Pridgen, a senior storm drain maintenance supervisor with the city of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, recently placed third in the very first American Public Works Association (AWPA) NC vs. SC Backhoe Rodeo.
Pridgen earned a spot on the North Carolina team by placing fifth in the APWA NC Backhoe Rodeo in June. The competition was his first.
“By the time I got to South Carolina, I kind of knew what to expect,” said Pridgen. “It was only my second time competing, but I knew the technique I wanted to use and that is what propelled me to a third place finish.”
The competition consisted of three rounds: the Egg Nest, the Pin Drop and the Bucket Ball event. From scooping a raw egg with a spoon attached to the end of the bucket and laying it gently in a nest several feet away, to placing a pin inside a traffic cone, to knocking a tennis ball off a cone into the bucket, each round tested an operator’s skills and techniques.
To participate in the final round, competitors had to qualify in the previous two rounds. Pridgen was the only North Carolina contestant to make it to the final round of competition.
“I am very proud of Chris,” said Jonathan Boone, director of Public Works and Water Resources for the city of Rocky Mount. “South Carolina has been holding a statewide competition for a number of years, but this is the first year that North Carolina has done so and the first year that both states have come together for a combined competition. By finishing third in the event, Chris kept North Carolina from being swept in the event.”
Though Pridgen’s current duties do not have him on the backhoe very often, the former heavy equipment operator does like to keep his skills in shape in case he needs them.
“I have worked on heavy equipment more than half my life,” said a smiling Pridgen. “It is good to know my skills haven’t left me.”
If given the opportunity, the veteran employee says he would like to once again compete on behalf of the city.
“I am a bit of a perfectionist. Even in my studies, I don’t settle for 95; I want a 100,” said Pridgen. “I definitely want to compete again.”
The North Carolina Chapter of the American Public Works Association is on Facebook here.
The City of Rocky Mount is online at www.rockymountnc.gov.