It was a rodeo of a different type as parks workers from around the region participated in a first-of-its-kind event designed to showcase their skills.

A maintenance rodeo for parks and recreation employees was held Wednesday at Civic Arena. Competitors from parks and recreation departments from the cities of St. Joseph, Maryville, Marshall, Grain Valley, Harrisonville, Sedalia and Warrensburg competed in a variety of skills-based events, including a backpack blower obstacle course, a nail driving competition, a skid loader event, a playground reconstruction and a zero-turn lawn mower race.

“This is a speed course through an obstacle course for our staff to take their mower through,” said Maryville Parks and Recreation Director Aaron Dobson. “And really they are trying to see how quickly they can get through the course with as little error as possible.”

The five events were timed, with 67 of the region’s parks and recreation employees being judged on consistency and accuracy during each competition. Awards were given out for the top three finishers in each category.

“This is an opportunity to see how those parks stay in good condition,” said Jan Neitzert, executive director of the Missouri Park and Recreation Association. “And a lot of times we don’t see that. It happens behind the scenes and it’s not an easy job.”

This was the first maintenance rodeo held for parks and recreation employees in Missouri, but Neitzert believes it won’t be the last.

“We’ll be soliciting feedback from the participants, and we fully expect to be at another location, or perhaps back here, in a year with an even better event,” she said. “And it might even be fun for the public to come and observe.”

The parks association’s northwest region was the first to hold a maintenance rodeo. Neitzert hopes to expand to all of the regions, with a statewide championship held every year.

Mark Zinn can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @KNPNZinn.

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