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They can dig it
Public works employees square off in annual Backhoe Rodeo
Backhoe 004
Wayne Dykes concentrates during the backhoe rodeo Friday at City Hall Park. - photo by Gary Phillips

City of Camden and Kershaw County public works employees got the opportunity to show off their backhoe skills, testing the steadiness of their nerves at the annual Backhoe Rodeo at City Hall Park on May 9.

Camden’s James “Red” Ray organized and oversaw the event which included 18 contestants competing in three events. The top three finishers advance to a regional competition Friday in Columbia. The top two contestants in Columbia will then move on to the state finals in downtown Greenville.

Ray said the events were planned out ahead of time, but not revealed or explained to the contestants until just before each challenge took place.

“That way nobody gets a chance to practice anything and get better and it’s fair to all of them,” he said. “Some of these things we’ve done before, but some I just made up for today.”

Ray said Case Equipment Company donated the use of the backhoe for the competition. That, again, mean no participants had an advantage of operating a machine they knew well.

“Everybody is running something brand new and they’re not used to it. As these machines get a little wear on them the controls are not as tight as when they’re new,” Ray said.

The top three finishers competing in Columbia on Friday are Adam Watford and Jeffrey Ransom with the city of Camden and Bob Smith, who works for Kershaw County. Nick Anderson finished fourth.

County employee Jeff Cannon said he felt he did well in the first contest, using a spoon duct taped to the backhoe’s bucket to pick up small balls and transfer them to a bucket several feet away. Operators had to move three balls within three minutes to be declared the winner.

“It went OK, I think,” Cannon said. “The big thing is to be steady and don’t try to go too fast.”