MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — Following a hiatus last year, the Dot Foods Forklift Rodeo returned on Thursday to the food redistributor’s Mount Sterling location.
This year’s event was scaled back due to various restrictions throughout the country. Typically the company brings in the winners of local and regional events to the Mount Sterling location for a company-wide championship. The contests are ending at that local and regional level this year.
John Bordewick, general manager of the Mount Sterling warehouse, said the event ran quicker than usual this year due to forced reduction in participation.
“We usually have 60 contestants from across the country,” Bordewick said. “This year, we only have 12.”
This year’s contestants are employees of all the warehouses in Mount Sterling. The company hires employees from within a 45-mile area around the warehouse, including Quincy and Jacksonville.
“The top contestants from each of the warehouses here in Mount Sterling get to compete for a cash prize,” Bordewick said. “The event is focused on safety. Of course time matters, but you get points for the staying inside the safety guidelines.”
The competition categories are broken into the four main types of forklifts used in Dot Foods’ warehouses: the narrow-aisle, for reaching items high up on shelves; the dragger, which has longer tines to carry two pallets at once; the stand-up, used for loading and unloading tractor-trailers; and the order-picker, the most prominent piece at the Mount Sterling site, used to pull products for customer orders.
Everything surrounding the competition this year is smaller, and Bordewick said they had thought about cancelling the event for the second year in a row. The decision was made, however, to go forward in a safe manner to show the company’s pride in their employees.
“We’ve been doing this for about 15 years, with the exception of last year,” he said. “This is a really important piece of our culture. We work hard, and so we like to have fun and celebrate. There’s no better way to highlight our employees’ skillset on the machines, while recognizing our safety culture along the way.”
Bordewick said that in normal years, the winners would travel to St. Louis for a victory celebration. Even that’s scaled back this year. The Mount Sterling winners were treated to an afternoon of catered food and drinks at Lake Mount Sterling.
Throughout the year, Dot Foods hosts events for employees, families, and friends. The typical Forklift Rodeo would have bleachers set up for crowds to watch, a DJ booth playing music, and the competitors selecting their own “walk-out” songs, like major league baseball players or wrestling stars.
“In normal years, we have a family fair that’s kind of like a mini-carnival,” Bordewick said. “We have golf tournaments, softball tournaments, fishing tournaments. We couldn’t do any of that last year. This is our first event that’s setting the tone for the year.”
Bordewick said that he hopes next year will see a return of the full-scale event for the rodeo.