When it comes to backpack blowers, zero-turn mowers, skid loaders, truck and trailer driving, and irrigation assembly, the maintenance crew of the St. Charles County Parks Department is No. 1.
In the first-ever Park Maintenance Rodeo, held Dec. 18 at the St. Charles County Family Arena and sponsored by Region 4 of the Missouri Park & Recreation Association [MPRA], the county’s crew took home an overall first-place trophy.
Eight teams from across Region 4 competed in the event, including St. Charles City, St. Louis County, Washington, Des Peres, Webster Groves and two teams from Sunset Hills. The crews were put to the test with timed events that had them maneuvering through mazes of orange cones topped with tennis balls.
The St. Charles County team of Roger Jonas, Dustin Ferrell, Bob Branstetter, Jimmy Clemonds and Alan Emge brought equipment know-how to the rodeo with their over 40 years of combined experience working for the county.
“We were surprised to learn we won first place,” says team member Dustin Ferrell. “Despite not finishing first in any one event, we scored high enough in all events to give us the overall win.”
There was a close call for first place, though. Emge lost a first-place win in the zero-turn mower obstacle course by a mere six seconds. Parks Department crew member Jonas just might have had the most difficult task of maneuvering a tennis ball through a course with a backpack blower, but when it came to steady turns and expert braking, the most impressive showing might have been from Ferrell. Driving a truck and trailer, not only did he have to maneuver the cones and tennis balls, but he had to drive smoothly enough not to knock a tennis ball off a cone placed inside the truck.
Extra points were given to the teams who could back up the truck and trailer to within 6 inches of a cone without hitting it. Ferrell stopped his within an inch.
“Everyone definitely had fun,” Ferrell says, “but once we won, it became more exciting.” The team received T-shirts, lunch and a first-place trophy, and will be presented with the award at the MPRA conference at Lake of the Ozarks in February.