OGDEN -- The Weber County Fair is the site of many spectacles and contests but nothing that comes close to the unusual display of the Backhoe Rodeo.
Contestants showed off their skill at operating the massive machines Thursday night at the Weber County Fairgrounds.
It's the first Backhoe Rodeo the Weber fair has ever had, and it brought in a sizable and enthusiastic crowd. Fair-goers cheered as the operators performed feats of dexterity with the backhoe and two mini-excavators.
Anyone with heavy-machinery experience was allowed to sign up. There were about 20 contestants, seasoned and amateur alike.
Operators competed in three events. Using the mini-excavator, they needed to remove soccer balls and baseballs from a pole and drop them into a bucket. The next event required them to use the mini-excavator to pick up three tires and drop them onto a pole. The last event had the operators get into the backhoe and, using a tiny spoon attached to the shovel, pick up an egg and drop it into a pan without cracking it.
Judges observed and scored the contestants, based on how well and how quickly they accomplished the goals.
Many of the contestants were construction workers who work with such heavy machinery every day. One of them, Nick Caldwell, said the goals were a lot harder than they looked.
"I just needed to steady my nerves," he said.
Caldwell's family was in the stands, cheering him on with shouted reminders that "slow and steady wins the race."
Laurrie Rebeck is a hairstylist but has experience with a heavy machinery because she helps her husband, who works in the cooling and heating industry. She was the only female operator.
"I thought I did pretty well. It's the first time I've done anything like this," she said.
It was the first time for many of the competitors, including Tony Daz, a contractor, who ended up winning first place.
He had never heard of anything like a backhoe competition, but a friend who was volunteering for the fair persuaded him to enter.
Daz took home the $300 prize and a commemorative vest.
The event was sponsored by local business Maw Equipment, which provided the backhoe and mini-excavators. Owner Dean Maw said he was approached by the Weber County Fair Board to help organize and promote the competition.
"I knew the equipment, so I was brought in to promote it and bring energy to it," Maw said.
Representatives from Case Construction were brought in to officiate and judge the competition.
While this was a purely amateur competition, the sport has a large following across the country and even has a professional league and championship, which is held in Las Vegas, where the huge prizes include trucks and backhoes.