SIDNEY — Drivers for Shelby Public Transit and the operators of the snow plows for the city of Sidney’s Street Department participated in the annual Snow Plow & Transit Roadeo held Thursday, Oct. 21. The annual event was held on an obstacle course set up on the parking lot at Custenborder Field.
“The inaugural event was held in 2007,” Sidney Street Superintendent Brian Green said in a press release. “It has been held every year since excepting last year, when the pandemic forced the cancellation of the Roadeo.
“The Roadeo serves as a refresher to the operators before the winter season begins,” Green continued. “Operators also get to showcase their driving skills and maneuvering abilities in the large plow trucks as they navigate the course.”
“The winner and runner-up receive plaques with their names on them,” Green said. “Our judges along the course usually include department heads and members of city council. The obstacles are narrowed when Transit buses run the course. It serves as an excellent training exercise for their drivers as well.”
The day began with the divers for Shelby Public Transit showcasing their skills. They were not deterred by the slight drizzle, the release said.
Finishing first of the 10 participating transit drivers was Kathy Barhorst. Barhorst scored 861 points. She has been driving for Shelby Public Transit since 2016.
Jim Davis finished second amongst the transit drivers with 798 points. Davis has been driving for Shelby Public Transit since 2015.
John Kohler finished third in the transit competition. He accumulated 788 points, and has been driving for Shelby Public Transit since 2018.
”The Roadeo is an important training opportunity for Shelby Public Transit,” Transit Manager Ron Schalow said in the release. “The Roadeo gives our bus operators a safe venue for practicing difficult driving maneuvers. That results in increased safety for our passengers and the public.”
Following a lunch consisting of pizza and soft drinks, the 25 snow plow operators began their competition. According to the release, the weather was more cooperative in the afternoon. The sun began to break through the clouds and the drivers, one-by-one, maneuvered the plows through the 10 obstacles included in the course.
The obstacles were all intended to simulate the real-life conditions snow plow drivers face while operating plows on city streets and alleyways. Some of those obstacles included dead-end streets, cul-de-sacs, narrow streets and alleyways, tight turning radii, right and left hand turns, and cars parked away from the curb.
In addition to the driving portion of the test, there is a written test. This year, no drivers scored a perfect score (500 points) on the written test, although three drivers received 475 points. They included Kurt Poeppelman, Jason Stewart and Jeremy Martin. The written test was 13% of the final score.
The course is also timed. Only one driver finished the timed driving portion of the test receiving 400 points. That driver was Jeremy Dearth. The driving portion of the test was 11% of the final score.
Receiving 3,395 points to finish first in the Snow Plow Roadeo was Mark Tennery. Tennery has been employed by the city of Sidney for eight years.
Receiving 3,384 points and finishing in second place was Ryan Mullen. Mullen has been employed by the city of Sidney for six years.
Receiving 3,372 points and finishing in third place was Derek Richards. Richards has been employed by the city of Sidney for eight years.
Receiving 3,325 points and finishing in fourth place was Zach Clark. Clark has been employed by the city of Sidney for six years.
Receiving 3,307 points and finishing in fifth place was Kurt Poeppelman. Poppelman has been employed by the city of Sidney for 16 years.
Finishing out the top 10 were Ben Smith (sixth), Jeremy Dearth (seventh), Jason Stewart (eighth), Jeremy Martin (ninth), and Blaine Helmlinger (10th place).
Fourth Ward Council member Steve Wagner has served as a judge for the Roadeo. He has served as a judge since he was first elected to office in 2011.
“Every year I help judge the Roadeo, I’m amazed by the tremendous skill levels of our drivers,” Wagner said in the release. “I enjoy the experience tremendously. It’s too bad our citizens can’t see how skillfully the drivers are able to maneuver their trucks through a difficult course.”
“I try to attend the event every year,” Mayor Mike Barhorst said in the release. “Although I arrived a bit late yesterday, I arrived in plenty of time for a couple slices of pizza and the opportunity to watch a number of the 25 snow plow operators navigate the course.”
“I am always amazed by the skill of the drivers, especially given the time factor involved,” the mayor said “Some years ago I rode shotgun in what turned out to be a misguided idea that I might try to navigate the course myself. I quickly decided that if I made the attempt, there would be orange cones scattered across the parking lot, the city manager’s mailbox would be pancaked, and medic units would have to be summoned to transport the judges to the hospital.”
Fortunately there were no injuries at this year’s Roadeo. There were, however, a few orange cones that were a bit worse for wear at the conclusion of the event.