National champion bricklayer ready to defend his title
Fred Campbell is prepared to demonstrate that he’s still the champ
By Ken Little
Fred Campbell didn’t finish first this past weekend at the East Tennessee regional Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 competition.
Then again, the national champion bricklayer didn’t have to.
As defending title-holder in the national SPEC Mix Bricklayer 500 competition held each February in Las Vegas, Campbell attended the regional event Saturday at General Shale Brick in Piney Flats as an "exhibition competitor," Spec Mix spokeswoman Ashley Wolfe said.
"Because he was champion this year, he gets to defend his title," Wolfe said.
The local event signals the beginning of training season for Campbell, whose growing business, Creative Masonry Inc., recently moved from Limestone to 301 Bohannan Ave. in Greeneville.
Campbell works as a team with longtime tender Tony Shelton, who will again accompany him to Las Vegas for the Feb. 3, 2016, event.
Had Campbell and Shelton actually joined the nine other teams in Saturday’s regional competition, they would have won hands-down based on their performance.
Motivating influence"I just went up there to play for the heck of it," Campbell said Monday. "It kind of helps the guys to be motivated to lay more (bricks)."
The East Tennessee regional competition first-place finishing team was Jason Peek and tender Scott Watson, of Peek Masonry in Kingsport. They will join Campbell and Shelton at the national SPEC Mix competition in Las Vegas.
Campbell and Shelton enjoyed attending the event as a practice exercise.
"Just because I was two-time champion, I was going to be there," Campbell said.
Hard work and dedication to his craft have helped the skilled bricklayer build a successful business and rise to the top of his profession.
"Anybody that knows me knows any (project) I work on, I give it 100 percent of my best work and work hard," Campbell said. "I’ve always taken my job really seriously."
That mindset extends to the SPEC Mix Bricklayer 500, where Campbell has won the national competition two of the last three years and would be the first competitor to take first place in consecutive years in the history of the event.
’Ready and confident’"I’m ready right now, ready and confident," Campbell said.
Campbell said the competition helps promote the profession, which is in dire need of a new generation of skilled masons. He said jobs are available, but it’s difficult to find qualified employees,
"Masonry is a dying trade," Campbell said.
Campbell was so dedicated to winning after a top-five finish in 2014 that he went on a diet and lost 65 pounds. The hard work paid off for Campbell and Shelton in February. He is also the 2013 Spec Mix Bricklayer 500 champion.
The brick mason lives in Limestone with his family, which provides support each year at the Las Vegas competition.
Campbell and Shelton had a cheering section of 32 people this year, including Campbell’s wife Sharon, six children and Shelton’s family.
Largest show of its kindThe World of Concrete/World of Masonry trade show is the largest annual construction trade show in the world. More than 5,000 spectators watched Campbell win the title in February.
Spec Mix, the Minnesota-based event sponsor, said Campbell’s competitors are all master craftsmen and have a high level of skill.
Each two-person team in the regional and national competition has 60 minutes to lay as many bricks as possible. Each mason and tender was required in the regional event to meet high quality standards 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.
Campbell is prepared to demonstrate that he’s still the champ come February.
"I just feel like it’s mine to lose. That’s the way I look at it," he said.
About the Author
Ken Little is a staff writer at The Greeneville Sun.
This article was originally published in The Greeneville Sun. This content has been republished with the permission of the publisher.