Welding Rodeo

From scrap to sculpture


If you set your alarm early enough this coming Friday or Saturday morning, you can make it to the Bellingham Technical College campus in time to see a spectacle that comes but twice a year.

At approximately 8am each morning, a loud horn will sound, and teams who have gathered to compete in the 12th annual Welding Rodeo will scurry forth to paw through mounds upon mounds of scrap metal. When they’ve found what they think they’ll need among the various hunks of discarded steel, the teams of welders will then get to the task at hand—creating works of fine art using both their tools and their imaginations.

Those who have attended the Welding Rodeo before should know this year’s event will vary slightly from previous rodeos. While there will still be a talented mix of professional teams from around Washington State competing for cash prizes at the spark-saturated soiree, the public will have more of a chance to get involved in the action this year.

In addition to the eight four-person pro teams that will take the theme of “Small Works” and spend up to 16 hours over the course of two days producing polished sculptures with an emphasis on quality, a new “Skills Challenge” invites those with less experience to try their hand at competing.

The rules will go something like this: welders of all ages—and skill levels—can sign up for the challenge. On each day of the competition, winners will be awarded for each skill test at every level, and, while supplies last, each competitor will receive a free T-shirt and have a chance to win a variety of prizes. Welders will be tested on basic to advanced cutting and welding techniques, and can choose the skills on which they want to be evaluated (the intricacies can be found at the event’s website).

Even if attendees don’t elect to take part in the competitions, they can still try their hand at the art form at a hands-on welding booth, where experienced student welders will guide them through the actual process of creating a weld, which they can take home and keep for their very own. (In case you’re worried about your lack of skills, you should know all protective gear will be provided.)

At this point, you may be wondering why the powers that be at Bellingham Technical College put so much effort into wrangling sprawling scraps of metal every May. The event started 12 years ago as a way to bring attention to the school’s welding program, and the BTC campus in general, and, as it’s evolved, it’s become clear the public has responded in a positive manner.

In addition to being privy to the intricate artistic process involved in welding, those who are interested in using the skill to further their careers can glean valuable information at the Welding Rodeo. Industry reps will be on hand to advertise professional opportunities in the field, and the Admissions & Foundation departments from BTC will have information for prospective students on the welding program, and other programs provided at the school. 

Whether you come to see the sparks fly or to find out more about starting a career as a welder, chances are good you’ll find what you came for. 

Finished sculptures will be auctioned off starting at 5:15pm Saturday afternoon, so if you’re one of those early birds who showed up at the start of the day to see the scrap scramble, you might want to make plans to return to see the finished products—and, if you’re so inclined, make a bid.

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