Fred Campbell, Of Limestone, Tops Competitors From U.S., Abroad
BY KEN LITTLE
After what happened in Las Vegas, Nev., this week, you could make a very good case that Fred Campbell stacks up as the top bricklayer in the world.
The Limestone brickmason proved his expertise at his profession on Wednesday at the 2013 Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 competition, held in Las Vegas.
He finished first among 20 highly-skilled masons competing for the title in the "World Series of Bricklaying," which was the main event of "Masonry Madness Day" at the 2013 World of Concrete/World of Masonry trade show.
Campbell, who lives on Milburnton Road in Limestone and operates Jonesborough-based Creative Masonry Inc., is returning home this weekend with more than bragging rights.
First-place prizes awarded him as the top winner of the challenging competition include $5,000 cash and a 2013 Ford F-250 4-by-4 XLT truck loaded with special features.
That will come in handy for Campbell, who was accompanied to the contest by 18 supporters, including his wife, Sharon, and five of his six children.
"We rented 15-passenger vans coming down here. Now I have a little more room," Campbell said in a telephone interview with The Greeneville Sun on Wednesday night after winning the title.
Twenty regional-competition winners from 16 states and three countries vied for the title.
Campbell earned the right to be one of the finalists by finishing first in mid-September 2012 in the Tennessee-North Carolina regional division of the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 competition.
Tony Shelton, owner of Limestone Construction, served as Campbell's "tender" in the competition.
The World of Concrete/World of Masonry trade show is the largest annual construction trade show in the world.
"I'd say they had 5,000 people come back to watch [Wednesday's competition]," Campbell said.
According to Spec Mix, the competition "is established to showcase the skill and craftsmanship of masonry."
"Spectators witness a true test of human drama as 20 highly-skilled teams consisting of a mason and a mason tender put their talent and physical endurance to the ultimate test," a news release about the event said.
During the competition, each mason was required to meet the quality standards of the event as they built a 26-foot, 8-inch double wythe.
Wythe is a masonry term for a vertical section of masonry that is one unit thick, meaning it is constructed from a single line of masonry units.
The winner was chosen based on the highest net brick count after subtracting for any quality violations.
Judges included 30 journeyman-level bricklayers and masonry instructors from across North America.
'COMMITTED' TO WIN
Campbell had won regional competitions twice in the past and thus participated in the national competition in Las Vegas both of those years. He came in second in 2012.
He "made little mistakes" both previous times that prevented a first-place finish, but he said the experience he picked up at the pressure-packed event in the past was invaluable to him this year.
"It's the third time I did it. I told everyone I would win it this year or die trying," Campbell said.
Bad-weather days here when Campbell couldn't work outside were spent at his shop practicing for the competition. He also lost 20 pounds to get in better shape before he went to Las Vegas.
All the hard work paid off.
"I was really committed to it. I told my wife and everybody I was going to give 110 percent, and that's just what I did. I knew this year what the judges were looking for, and that's what I did," Campbell said.
'IT'S BEEN AN ADVENTURE!'
Sharon Campbell laughed as she added, in a separate interview Friday evening, "It's been an adventure this year!"
She also noted with pride that her husband was the only Tennesseean who had placed at any level -- first, second, or third -- in the 11 years of the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 competition.
'A GREAT HONOR'
Fred Campbell said he appreciates the support of his family and other backers.
One contractor with whom he has worked over the years is Jeff Idell of Greeneville, president of Idell Construction.
Idell said in an interview with the Sun that he watched the competition live Wednesday via a webcast on the Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 website, http://www.specmixbricklayer500.com/
He described the competition as "the Super Bowl of bricklaying."
"It's a grueling competition," Idell emphasized in interviews this week. "It's a big deal.
"He competed locally, and then he did it out there."
"He's a wonderful craftsman, and this is a great honor."