Digging into big fun at Dozer Day

Kids scramble to try out the really big versions of some of their favorite toys

By Andy Matarrese, Columbian Breaking News Reporter

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Like flies to honey or moths to a flame, not much pulls in small children like life-size versions of their toy trucks and bulldozers and the accompanying dirt and mud.

That seemed to be the case for Diane and John Fitzpatrick’s three grandchildren — Kaleb Cutler, 9; Kira Bolliger, 5; and Greg Bolliger, 3 — who all came Dozer Day on Sunday to see and play with the heavy excavating equipment on display at the Grandstand at the Clark County Fairgrounds.

“It’s weird, it’s in their blood,” Diane said, not convinced her grandkids would be any less excited by the heavy equipment if they had never seen a backhoe or dump truck in their lives.

Whenever Greg sees a bulldozer, Diane said, “He just goes crazy, so we thought this was the ideal thing.”

John said they heard about it after getting a text message from Kaleb’s mom, who had a similar reaction.

“I mean he just went crazy,” John said, telling Mom about how much he wanted to see the garbage trucks.

Kira, they said, wanted to get behind the controls of everything, from the backhoes to the bulldozers.

John spent more than 30 years working for NW Natural.

“It’s great for the kids to see what Grandpa did,” he said.

The annual Dozer Day event at the fairgrounds attracts up to 20,000 attendees each year, and the two-day festival’s proceeds go to the Nutter Family Foundation, which raises money for children’s charities.

The foundation, ran by the Nutter family, which operates a construction company, has raised more than $1 million over the life of the event.

Michelle Sennet’s 4-year-old, Logan Sennett, was two years old when he first came to Dozer Day, she said after he climbed down from the cab of a tall crane.

Now that he’s a bit older, he’s having a lot more fun, she said. His favorite attraction? Also the garbage trucks.

“Oh my gosh, we’ve been over there many times,” she said. “All three of them, multiple times.”

Logan said the volunteer equipment operators let him dump the contents of a bin into the truck’s bed.

“I saw all of these machines in one of my grandma’s books,” Logan said. “‘Digger, Dozer, Dumper.'”

“Must be a good book,” Mom said. “He remembers it!”

The heat and the wait were are tough on the littler kids, said Terren Jones, who was waiting in line with his 2-year-old, Indiana, who was gearing up hop in an excavator.

That didn’t stop Indiana, though.

“He likes to play in the dirt and stuff,” Terren said. “When we watch YouTube stuff, kids stuff, it’s like, ‘Tractors!’ all the time. ‘I want that tractor!’ ”

Seeing all the other parents’ kids having such a good time was also nice to see, Terren said.

Chris Sheridan was snapping photos of his 3-year-old, Jamie Sheridan, as Jamie worked the crane controls.

It was Jamie’s second visit to Dozer Day, and he couldn’t get enough of it, Chris said.

“He just loves trucks — he’s a 3-year-old boy, so, you know,” said Dad, right before he had to chase after Jamie, who was running toward the backhoes.