Solid competition: Alberta bricklayers go head-to-head

It’s got a name that sounds like it’s right out of motorsports — the 2022 Spec Mix Bricklayer 500. Six teams from Alberta compete by building an eight-metre long brick wall as high as possible in just one hour.

This year’s champions are mason Dave Sontag and his tender Sonny Harvey. The two managed to lay 557 bricks for their wall and this is Sontag’s 10th year competing.

“Once you try, you really want to succeed every single time be the best bricklayer you can,” he said. “We compete against friends that we’re talking with back and forth, we’re all friends here so it’s just competitiveness, that’s the industry.”

The two have won a trip to the national competition in Las Vegas. Denis Charbonneau has organized the regional event for the last eight years and says the best an Alberta team has done is a second-place finish.

“There’s 24 teams nationwide, with three from Canada,” said Charbonneau. “A few years ago the first Canadian winner was from Ontario and that was big.”

Charbonneau says the side benefit of the annual event is to develop interest in the trade and to entice more young people to choose bricklaying as a career. The judged event is designed to test speed, skill and stamina by challenging teams to build the best brick wall with as few errors as possible in the time limit. The total number of bricks used are calculated and bricks are deducted for various faults found.

“There’s deductions for chipped bricks and bad joints,” said Charbonneau. “One penalties is 50 bricks off your count.”

Roland Stallknecht has almost 50 years of experience in the industry and volunteers his time to judge the regional event.

“Most of the guys are working to the top of their ability today,” he said. “But just like anything else, sometimes you have it and sometimes you don’t on a certain day.”

Stallknecht was even invited to Las Vegas one year to judge the nationals.

“A lot of companies in the states sponsor their contestants,” said Stallknecht. “They practice 12 months of the year and I don’t think that happens in Alberta, I wish it did because I think there’s some guys that could really take away the prizes.”

Donovan Payne is a second-year bricklaying apprentice and is the tender for mason Micky Cardinal. This is his first time competing at this level and he feels he’s on the road to success.

“This is where I want to be one day and these guys are my idols,” said Payne. “Micky my bricklayer, he’s one of my idols, he’s amazing, it was so awesome to see him working today and just to see where I need to be at you know, because that’s where I aim to be.”

Mason Dan Cozy teamed up wth Louis St. Laurent for the event. St. Laurent says he’s been trying to get Cozy out for a number of years for the regional event because he says they work well together.

“I make sure that he’s got everything he needs where he needs it, that’s about it,” said St. Laurent. “Then coach, pay attention on time and then you know make sure that I don’t cost deduction with the chipped bricks which you miss here and there right.”

The two-person teams have to work well together because only the mason can touch the wall while the tender makes sure he always has access to bricks and mortar. Those who’ve competed say it’s an hour of madness.

The winning team heads to the 21st annual Las Vegas World Championships at the World of Concrete in mid January 2023 with a chance to win more than $125,000 in prize money.

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