Grease pole is proven crowd pleaser

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 July 2013 at 12:08 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – The Grease Partiers made it to the top of a slathered telephone pole. Part of the team includes, from left: Raymond Austin of Knowlesville, Summer Prentice of Oakfield, Patrick Sewar of Knowlesville and John Ireland of Brockport.

Patrick Sewar, a member of the Grease Partiers, is the top man during a grease pole climb Wednesday night at the Orleans County 4-H Fair. Several hundred people turn out to watch the competition each night at 10 p.m.

KNOWLESVILLE It caps off most nights at the fair, drawing hundreds of people gathered around a telephone pole.

The grease pole competition is a proven crowd pleaser, who cheer and laugh as the competitors desperately try to climb the top of grease-slathered pole. It’s not easy for the teams, which need to stack four or five climbers, a tower of people standing one on top of the other.

It’s hard to do with a slick pole.

The Rough N Ready team debuted at the 2011 fair and they’ve gotten better. Last year it took them 48 seconds to get to the top. They did it in 30 seconds on Wednesday.

They practiced on a dry pole before the competition. Team captain Nic Elliott believes the team can lower its time at Saturday’s finals. The fastest team each night advances to championship on Saturday at 10 p.m. The winning team usually has a time around 20 seconds.

John Ireland of Brockport has the top position while Josh Avila of Clarendon, lower left, gets ready to climb.

Elliott and his Rough N Ready mates will talk strategy and look for ways to trim seconds off the climb. The group ranges in age from 18 to 23. Many of them are firefighters and self-described “good ole’ boys.”

Steven Papponetti, 20, of Albion left with several splinters in his hands after the climb. He was the high climber, the one who reached the top. Papponetti said he has improved from last year.

“It’s a lot of trial and error,” he said.

He puts his hands on the shoulder of each teammate on the tower, then puts his feet on their hips, and then his feet to their shoulders, before ascending another person.

Veteran climbers learn to tightly duct tape their waists so teammates have sturdy support on what can be a slippery experience.

Alex Graff of Rochester hangs on tight on top while Josh Avila of Clarendon provides steady support below.

Rough N Ready won on Wednesday, but another team impressed the crowd. The Grease Partiers took about five minutes to get to the top. They didn’t have duct tape and the team didn’t have experience with the competition. They struggled, and Rough N Ready members helped them get to the top.

The Partiers had grease all over their clothes, arms and ears.

John Ireland, 32, of Brockport was talked into giving it a try. He and his teammates were euphoric when it was over.

“It was a blast,” he said.

The team can try again later this week to try to qualify for the finals.

The Rough N Ready team huddles before the competition, the last event of day at the fair.