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News / Clark County News

Tractors pull in young fans during Dozer Day

Kids play on heavy machinery at annual event

By Jack Heffernan, Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published: May 19, 2019, 9:01pm
10 Photos
Kids of all ages take the driver’s seat in dozers, loaders and excavators during Dozer Day at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds on Sunday.
Kids of all ages take the driver’s seat in dozers, loaders and excavators during Dozer Day at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds on Sunday. Elayna Yussen for The Columbian Photo Gallery

While his family waited in line for the next attraction, Wyatt, 2, pointed a few hundred feet away and said “tractor,” as the machine chugged along.

“He’s going through a tractor phase,” said Jared, his father, who declined to give his last name, “just tractors, tractors, tractors.”

He couldn’t have been in a better spot.

Thousands gathered this weekend for the annual Dozer Day at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. The two-day event, hosted by the nonprofit Nutter Foundation — a charitable arm of construction contractor Nutter Corporation — offered children a chance to sit in the driver’s seat and operate construction equipment, a fire engine, an ambulance and other heavy machinery as a trained adult sat with them.

Around 20,000 people attended the event, which has raised more than $1.4 million for children’s charities since the foundation took over the local version in 2008, Nutter Foundation spokeswoman Renee Nutter said. The purpose of the construction carnival is to expose children to opportunities in trade jobs.

“It’s great that we can get together and do something like this to showcase the industry,” Nutter said. “The energy is contagious.”

Lilly Booth, 6, and sister Julie, 4, felt that energy as they waited to play with a garbage truck. The girls, whose father, Charlie Booth, has worked in construction more than 20 years, are not strangers to heavy equipment. He’ll occasionally let them sit in excavators.

“We don’t have to wait in line there,” Booth joked.

Despite the experience, Lilly and Julie enjoy collecting prizes and trying out other machinery, said Chelsea Booth, their mother. Still, Lilly said excavators remain her favorite part, and her little sister agreed.

“She just likes copying her sister,” Chelsea Booth said.

About 800 people volunteered for Dozer Day, half of whom are teenagers, Nutter said. Youth groups, such as a Boy Scout troop on hand for cleanup Sunday, are offered a grant to volunteer.

“We like to work with groups that are teaching young adults to give back to the community,” Nutter said.

Many of the volunteers are returnees.

Steve Klopman and his son, Tanner Klopman, have been volunteering for 12 years, when the younger Klopman was 8 years old. The elder Klopman is a maintenance supervisor with the city of Camas, while his son works in construction and recently earned an electrical license.

“It’s an opportunity for young children and young adults to see what this equipment can do,” Steve Klopman said. “It gives them respect as they go down a highway or road and see this equipment.”

One of the new additions the past couple of years has been a career fair the day before the official event. This year, students from Evergreen and Vancouver Public Schools attended the fair, which drew 15 companies, Nutter said.

“When they were leaving, it felt so good that they were like, ‘I have an idea what I’m going to do,” Nutter said, referring to some of the high school seniors who participated.

For younger children, the weekend gave them a sense of being at an amusement park, a chance to play with machines that they typically only see in model size.

“When you have two boys, it’s like a given that you have to go to this,” said Beckie Scott of her sons Nolan, 5, and Bennett, 3.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter