The Spec Mix 500 Bricklayer 500 Regional and National Competitions are a series of events that pit bricklayers from all over North America against each other to compete for prizes and vie for the honor of being the “Best Bricklayer in the World.” County Materials is proud to have sponsored the Wisconsin SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500® Regional Competition on September 18, 2014. County Materials also provided brick to help the Wisconsin state champion prepare for the SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500 National Competition in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 4, 2015.
The competitions featured 2-man teams consisting of a mason and his assistant (known as the mason tender) against each other to determine who can lay the most brick in a specified amount of time. Awards were also given to the team which exhibited the greatest craftsmanship.
The SPEC MIX BRICKLAYER 500® competitions are fun and exciting, but they also bring more serious benefits to today’s world of masonry.
By its very nature, the competition pushed participants to be the best they can be, says Cory Firkus of Firkus Masonry in Stevens Point, WI. Firkus was the winner of the Wisconsin regional competition, where he also took home Top Craftsman honors. Firkus relied on jobsite experience to practice for the regionals, but once he qualified for nationals he and his tender, Rob Wanyen, ramped up the effort. Using 1,200 brick donated by County Materials, the pair would get together after work and weekends to practice speed bricklaying, cleaning up the brick and re-using them again and again. “The competition improves your skill on the job,” says Firkus. “To go that fast, you have to learn to do it by feel. It really improved my skill and accuracy.”
The competition was important in another way, too. In recent years this vital industry has suffered a decline. Fewer young people are entering the trade, and as older ones retire, a shortage of skilled masons has resulted. Firkus believes the excitement surrounding the BRICKLAYER 500® is helping call attention to masonry as a career opportunity. “I think it brings the industry out more into the community. The masonry industry is hidden until you come out with the finished product. (The national competition) was like going to a football game. People were yelling and cheering. I think it’s great that in Wisconsin they bring in kids from high school so they can see it’s a rewarding career. It’s a fun career. It feels good, and you can be proud of showing people what you’ve done.”
Firkus is already thinking ahead to next year’s competition. “I’d like to thank County Materials for their help, and their continued support, he says. “I really enjoyed working with County Materials and hope to get back to Vegas to promote the trade more and to represent Wisconsin. I’d like to bring back a trophy to Wisconsin.”