KENNEBUNK, Maine — There might not be snow on the ground right now, but snowfighters were back behind the wheel Tuesday in southern Maine.
"It's totally different than anything else they do. Usually, they're not plowing around cones," John Cannell, director of highway maintenance with the Maine Turnpike Authority, said.
On Tuesday morning, 21 teams competed in the MTA snowplow rodeo. Teams consist of two drivers, who each drive through an obstacle course with 11 different challenges.
Drivers have to use plow blades to knock soccer balls off cones, back into tight spaces, weave between cones, and more as part of the course.
"I think Maine plow drivers are some of the best in the country. I think they get a lot of practice honestly with some of the winters we get," Cannell said.
Drivers are timed through the course and receive fewer points when obstacles are not completed correctly, or a driver hits a cone.
"This year was pretty tough, we had some new challenges," Patrick Nadeau said. Nadeau and his teammate Paul Whitley competed together for the sixth time Tuesday and finished third overall.
"Anybody could win it. We're all skilled drivers. You've got to be, to be out here," Nadeau said.
The top three teams from the MTA snowplow rodeo earn a spot to compete in the state snowplow rodeo championship in Skowhegan in June.
"It's a lot easier to see. Don't have to deal with traffic, just have to deal with the hecklers," Scott Gwilt said.
Gwilt has won three different MTA snowplow rodeos and even went on to the national championship in Colorado in 2019. Gwilt's team finished 2nd in the MTA Snowplow Rodeo on Tuesday.
The MTA's top team consisted of Tracy Pomerleau and Mike Lennox.
The MTA's snowplow rodeo also serves as a celebration of the end of the busy plowing season, where drivers spent countless hours on Maine roads keeping them clear and safe.
"It's our end-of-year celebration of our plow drivers. They spend tons of time in their trucks. They spend tons of time away from their families. This is a time to enjoy each other and get ready for the big statewide rodeo, and just have a little bit of fun," Cannell said.