World of Concrete 2017: A Smashing Success
Tens of thousands embarked on Las Vegas as concrete and masonry stole the World of Concrete 2017 show.
Crowded aisles and packed outdoor lots: The World of Concrete/World of Masonry 2017 show was held in Las Vegas in January, and it did not disappoint. From the latest technologies and scientific advancements in materials to the toughest equipment and beastliest of machinery, innovation and power ran rampant. The Pro Masonry Guide team took in the opportunity to learn about the concrete and masonry industries’ latest and greatest products and services.
One highlight of the show is the Spec Mix BRICKLAYER 500 World Championship competition, which grows more exciting every year. An estimated 4,000 spectators watched an intense battle between 25 two-man teams comprised of one mason and one mason tender. They raced against a 60-minute clock to build a 26-foot, 8-inch double-wythe brick wall. The walls were judged by 30 highly qualified masonry experts enforcing 10 sets of craftsmanship requirements.
North Carolina bricklayer Matt Cash took first place and earned the title of World’s Best Bricklayer. Cash laid 716 brick to take top honors at the international bricklaying competition, which earned him the keys to a 2017 Ford F-250 XLT 4×4 truck and $15,000 in cash and prizes. He has 17 years of experience and works with Huntley Brothers, a company with a reputation for developing young bricklayers into master masons.
“When they called my name as the World’s Best Bricklayer, it was a huge relief,” Cash says. “I finally got that monkey off my back. All the guys at Huntley Brothers and my family told me I was meant to win it, so it was a phenomenal feeling. I was up against a lot of great bricklayers!”
The Spec Mix BRICKLAYER 500 initiative was created to give back to the masonry trade and has expanded in many positive aspects. Regardless of its growth, the event remains laser-focused on achieving the original goals of uniting the masonry industry and putting the craft’s trowel-toting artisans on the world’s stage. It’s also taken on the role as the masonry industry’s top marketing campaign, frequently leveraged by industry professionals to infuse a strong sense of pride within its craftsmen. Masonry instructors also use it as a tool to recruit young adults and individuals looking to start a new career.
To add insight to what makes the BRICKLAYER 500 an annual success during the World of Concrete 2017, we sat down with Gary Porter, a judge for the competition and the executive director of the Masonry Advisory Council, www.masonryadvisorycouncil.org. Following is what he had to say:
Pro Masonry Guide: How did you become a judge of the Spec Mix BRICKLAYER 500 and what does that duty entail?
Gary Porter: I became a judge of the Bricklayer 500 through Jim O’Connor, who was very involved (and still is). He said my experience made me a good candidate to judge. I have judged for the last four years, since I moved into the Masonry Advisory Council executive director’s position. My background: I graduated from IIT with a civil engineering degree and worked at the Village of Glenview for two years. My father, a successful mason contractor, asked me to come home and get into the business, and said that they needed me. So I moved home, was a mason for 15 years and estimated for 20 years. My brother and I bought the business from our dad, and we were very successful mason contractors. During the 2009-2010 recession, we struggled finding work and regrettably got out of the business. That was not easy.
I have judged the apprentice competition for the last three years. This year, I judged the Fastest Trowel on the Block competition. There are about 20 judges for each group. Each judge has some attachment to the masonry industry as an apprentice teacher, a mason, mason contractor, masonry association executive, etc. Each judge scores each wall on one aspect, such as level, plumb, voids, following the plan, dimensions, quality, etc. So the winner is computed by data the judges give back to the MCAA and Spec Mix. It is a very fair, unbiased system.
PMG: What do you look for when you judge a wall built by a contestant?
Porter: Originally this competition, years ago, was won by how many block or brick were laid. Today it has evolved into the quality of the work sometimes winning over the number of bricks or block laid. I think this is a good thing. This makes the walls laid in this competition more in line with what is acceptable in the real world and everyday bricklaying and block laying. If a mason has good control over the proper techniques required to lay an acceptable masonry wall, he will have a greater chance at winning this competition. Just how a mason spreads his mortar says much about his bricklaying ability.
PMG: What advice would you give someone who enters the BRICKLAYER?
Porter: I would advise anyone wanting to compete in the Bricklayer 500 or Fastest Trowel competition to just concentrate on perfection at laying brick or block. The speed will come with practice, but the work needs to be acceptable.