Crestline kindergartners get a preview of Dozer Day (with video)

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter

Published:

 

If you go

What: Dozer Day, a fairlike event where kids get to ride and drive heavy construction equipment, play in a pipe tunnel and dig for diamonds

Where: Cemex/Fisher Quarry, on the west side of Southeast 192nd Avenue and Brady Road intersection. Visitors encouraged to take C-Tran from the Northeast 164th Street Park & Ride to the event. The bus costs $2, and riders will get a free souvenir.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Cost: At the gate: $8 for children ages 2-12 and seniors age 55 and older, $10 for adults and free for kids under 2. Most events are free with admission. Bring cash for food and drink. No ATM on site.

Information:http://www.nutterfoundation.org/dozer.html

A caravan of Evergreen Public Schools buses lurched to a stop in the Cemex/Fisher Quarry in east Vancouver. When the doors opened, four classes of Crestline Elementary School kindergartners tumbled out, ready for the sneak preview of Dozer Day.

Each year, the Nutter Family Foundation offers a district elementary school an opportunity to experience Dozer Day free of charge the Friday before the event officially opens. Last year's selected school was Crestline Elementary. This

year's school was Mill Plain Elementary, which has hosted the kindergartners of Crestline Elementary since the February 3 fire destroyed the school.

Within minutes, the parking area was transformed into a sea of diminutive yellow hard hats migrating toward the heavy equipment fun awaiting them.

"What do you want to do first?" dad chaperone Mitch Merwin asked his group.

"The helicopter!" shouted his son, Micah Merwin, 6.

"Are there helicopters?" asked Hailey Rooks, 6.

Alas, there is no helicopter at Dozer Day. But there are bulldozers, dump trucks, excavators, backhoes, a fire engine and a garbage truck.

"There's been a rumor started about a helicopter," Mitch Merwin said.

He volunteers once a week in Necia Gannon's classroom, his son's class. It's Merwin's first time at the annual event.

"I'm excited about it," Merwin said. "The kids have been talking about it."

First, kids and adults ate a complimentary lunch of hamburgers and hotdogs.

Despite two missing front teeth, Denessa Graves, 6, chewed a hamburger.

"I was missing five teeth all at once," she said matter-of-factly. "I put my teeth under my pillow in my mom's ring box. The tooth fairy leaves me $2."

That's $2 per tooth, for those out of the loop on what the Tooth Fairy currently pays kids sporting toothless grins.

As Denessa chomped potato chips, she pointed behind her toward the heavy equipment. "I want to see the tractors. Dump trucks, too. And the tunnels."

Soon students were running up the steps to the tunnel of oversized concrete pipe, a big attraction for the kids.

"What are you waiting for?" one boy shouted, forging ahead into the tunnel.

Another lost his plastic hard hat, stopped long enough to pick it up and then disappeared into the tunnel.

A second later, two other boys emerged from the tunnel's other end.

"Where's Fernando?" one asked.

"Come this way!" the other said, running into the tunnel again.

Next, chaperone Merwin and his charges waited in line to take a turn working the controls of backhoes and excavators.

One exuberant boy hopped from foot to foot, shouting, "This one! This one! I want to go on this one!"

Union High School students stood sentry, helping kids cross the construction fence to climb aboard the heavy equipment.

Micah Merwin climbed up into the cockpit where John Glass of Nutter Corp. instructed the boy how to operate the controls.

Micah scooped the dirt, then dumped it. Then did it again. Biting his lip, he appeared to be deep in concentration, yet grinning at the same time.

"Micah has toy dump trucks in the backyard," his dad said. "He and his brothers play with them all the time. I'm sure it's fun to play with the real deal."

Emerging from the cockpit, Micah said, "It was fun!"

"Can we go in the tunnel?" one kindergartner asks Merwin.

"Can we go in the sandbox next?"

Then Merwin and his kindergarten charges were off to ride in the back of a John Deere dump truck that normally hauls about 40 tons of rock. The kids settled on bales of hay; the truck jerked forward. The next adventure awaits.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515; http://twitter.com/Col_Schools;susan.parrish@columbian.com