BRIDGEVIEW â€” John Kerr may be the only bricklayer in B.C. who has a dedicated cheering section.
"Go Dad!" "Lay that brick!" "You got this!"
The shouts of Kerr’s four daughters rang out in a Bridgeview-area parking lot on Sept. 5, when five two-man teams – mason and tender – went brick-to-brick to earn a trip to Las Vegas to represent B.C. at the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 National Championship, and hopefully be named the World’s Best Bricklayer.
"Oh, I’m coming out to win. All my daughters know it. They’re coming out every year to cheer me on," said Kerr.
"I’m going to win it all."
Kerr’s confidence didn’t betray him. The 30-year mason had the most experience of any competitor, having built walls three times previously in regional qualifiers in Calgary, and had been practising in his driveway for two weeks.
When the hour allotted for building expired, Kerr had laid 526 bricks – on a good work day, a mason will lay about 500 bricks.
The effort won him and his tender, who work for Alpine Masonry, the top prize of $600 and a trip to Vegas in February for the championship.
He also won an additional $250 for having the best craftsmanship.He was thrilled to havetaken part in the first regional qualifier held in B.C.
"I take this more seriously than anyone I’ve ever met," Kerr said.
"I need that piece of paper. I’m a B.C. boy and I’m bringing it home."
If there was a prize for the team that had the most fun, it probably would have gone to Mike Doyle and Jason Garnett from Alegra Masonry.
"My best guys weren’t available so I settled for these two," razzed Nick Vukelic, Alegra’s owner.
"What? We’re your No. 2 team?" Doyle fake-pouted.After all was said and done, Alegra took third place with 324 bricks.
Vukelic was proud of his workers and Garnett said he had such a good time that he’d do it again next year in a heartbeat.
The youngest competitors were 20-year-old Vincent Vantunen and 21-year-old Thomas Koop, who are second-year masonry apprentices.
Koop went to join the union earlier in the week and was encouraged to enter the competition.
He dragged Vantunen out of bed to join him.
"Basically if we don’t lose, there’s something wrong with the rest of them," Koop said with a grin.
True to Koop’s prediction, the pair came in last, laying 240 bricks.Judge Brian Magowan, who has 35 years of masonry experience, said he could see Vantunen and Koop becoming accomplished masons in a few years.
Competition judge Geoff Higginson, an instructor at the Trowel Trades Training Association – which hosted the competition in its parking lot on Industrial Road near the Fraser River – said it’s good to see young people going into masonry.
Higginson said the competition could be a boon to the local industry.