Temple Parks and Recreation to host Maintenance Rodeo

City of Temple Parks and Recreation workers will put their skills to the test Thursday when the city hosts the 2020 Central Region Texas Recreation and Parks Society Maintenance Rodeo.

The competition allows parks maintenance crews from across the region to compete in events such as lawnmower obstacle courses, irrigation assembly and plant identification.

“Participants come from different cities around the area,” said Mike Hemker, assistant director of Parks and Recreation. “These guys take a lot of pride in competing. It’s ultimately about bragging rights between the maintenance crews.”

While the thrill of competition may fuel the event, Parks Division Director Lee Bullock said it also serves a practical purpose by giving participants a chance to hone the techniques they use on a daily basis.

“We encourage all of our employees to compete in the Rodeo event because it builds morale and gives them a break from the usual routine while still sharpening valuable skills,” Bullock said. “It also helps foster a sense of team and unity with the crew.”

Events will kick off Thursday morning at the Frank W. Mayborn Civic and Convention Center with representatives from a dozen area parks departments. Participants who place in the top five in their respective events will qualify for the state competition next year.

Irrigation Technician David Cobb is a former state champion of the irrigation assembly competition. He said the spirit of competition brings an added element to something that would normally be a day-to-day activity.

“This is what I do every day, and the competition in this contest is tough,” Cobb said. “It challenges me to be better.”

Mike Nolen is competing in the zero-turn mower obstacle course and has already engaged in some healthy competitive banter with his teammates.

“I’ve told everyone on our team that they have to beat me before thinking of beating the others,” Nolen said. “This will be kind of an adrenaline rush because I normally operate a large mower, not the zero-turn radius units.”

Though it’s all in good fun, Hemker views the competition as a way to thank parks maintenance workers for all of their hard work. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hemker said local parks served as a much-needed place of refuge for many residents.

“Parks crews never stopped working during COVID. Parks were used by the public and had to be maintained, so we still had to keep things operational,” Hemker said. “This is our opportunity to thank these guys and gals for everything they did to keep our parks functioning and open during this time.”