Winter might still be a couple months away, but on Oct. 10, more than 60 Taney County Road and Bridge Department employees found themselves seated behind a snowplow for the Taney County Snow Rodeo and Training Day.
This annual event gives county employees the opportunity to test their abilities behind the heavy machinery, as they compete in a handful of obstacle courses and equipment challenges.
Among the different competition stations, the headlining event each year is the snowplow challenge, according to Taney County Road Administrator Devin Huff.
“We’ve got a snowplow obstacle course where you take a dump truck with a snowplow and spreader in and out of cones, back up to barricades and put your blade in a box,” said Huff. “Then we’ve got a grater competition where you go through cones and knock tennis balls off and move rocks from Box A to Box B.”
Additional challenges included a truck inspection station where employees were tasked in finding any defaults with the truck and a station where two employees work together to put tire chains on a snowplow. Huff said the day of events also challenged employees’ abilities with an excavator and a backhoe.
“We’ve got an excavator where you do a serpentine around the barrel, and then we’ve got one where you have to put two pipes inside of another two pipes,” said Huff. “Then we’ve got another one with a backhoe to where you pull a golf ball off of a cone, a tennis ball from a cone and a softball from a cone and drop them in a bucket.”
While those competing in the challenges do get to have a little fun with each event, Huff said the main purpose behind the rodeo is to give department employees some additional training time with the equipment.
“To try and get everyone ‘winter aware’ to where they’re familiar with all the controls in the trucks,” Huff said. “It gets the guys on all of the equipment that you use to load with or help with snow removal. It just keeps that in the back of their mind, since winter is right around the corner.”
Huff said the rodeo also gives them the opportunity to inspect all the snowplows while they are fully rigged, to see if any adjustments need to be made.
The winners of the each event are awarded prizes and given bragging rights for the year. Huff added that this event is entirely sponsored by vendors, and the county is not out any money.
“Vendors donate prizes and stuff for the different events. We also have our safety meeting, which we do monthly anyway, but it’s a safety meeting with everybody combined.”
According to Branson Tri-Lakes News archives, Taney County has approximately 1,100 lane miles of road it maintains when it snows. For information on the Taney County Road and Bridge Department, visit taneycounty.org.