Kids and construction. The love affair begins as soon as little ones are just tall enough to peek out the car window and see a mighty excavator along the highway. The machines are so big, dirty and loud — just up a youngster’s alley. Aside from toys in the sandbox and dress up with a plastic hardhat and vest, construction seems a bit out of reach for kids. I mean, it’s for grownups! Not anymore.
Thanks to events like Touch-a-Truck, kids get to climb into the cabs of stationary machines, explore the controls and pretend to be in charge. Then there’s Dozer Day, an event created by the Nutter Family Foundation, that puts children in the driver’s seat by allowing them to sit with an experienced operator and operate the machine. Yes, you read that right; they actually get to operate! They get to roll over dirt piles, scoop up gravel and pose for about one million pictures for their parents. The event not only gets kids up close and personal with construction, but its proceeds also benefit local charities. It’s a win-win.
So, when we heard NUCA of Washington was planning a Dozer Day event in Seattle, my five-year-old son Carter and I jumped on a plane and headed west. The two-day event held at the Washington State Fairgrounds June 3 and 4 welcomed 10,000 attendees and drew in nearly 100 sponsors. It was the perfect two days for a curious little boy to explore construction and get to drive the machines he’s always admired from afar.
“NUCA of Washington decided to sponsor the Dozer Day event as a way to encourage young children to consider the construction trades as a career path,” said Mark Scoccolo, manager at SCI Infrastructure and Dozer Day Seattle coordinator. “Most of them have never been exposed to anything the construction industry has to offer, and there are so many paths to take in the industry that the opportunities are just endless. I attended the Dozer Day event in Vancouver several years ago with my kids and they really enjoyed it. I witnessed the joy and wonderment in the faces of other kids who aren’t exposed to the construction industry. I said to myself, ‘We need to do this up in the Seattle area, and NUCA of Washington is the right vehicle to do it. What better way to get the industry united and working toward a great cause while benefitting it at the same time?’”
Once we arrived, Carter and I headed straight for the machines. There, Carter knocked out his machinery wish list: wheel loader, dumper, dozer (a crowd favorite), mini excavator, backhoe loader and, of course, the “big” excavator. His favorite? It was a tie between the backhoe loader and larger excavator. Admission included unlimited trips on the machines, so as long as kids were patient enough to wait, they were able to ride as many times as they’d like. Carter tested that out with multiple turns on the larger Komatsu excavator.
More to Explore
The machines were just half the fun at Dozer Day. There were plenty of exhibitors on hand to explore and discover what roles they played in the industry. Not to mention, most of them passed out goodies and hardhat stickers (See Carter’s hat for proof. There’s 15 and counting). Activities were scattered throughout the grounds including multiple dirt piles and trucks, a playground of pipes, ziplining through a trench box and a giant tire crawl (Carter’s favorite). Case Construction Equipment even sponsored a visit by Blippi, a famous YouTube character whose educational videos focus on everything from construction equipment and animals to letters, numbers and shapes.
Between the machines and all the fun around, Dozer Day was the ultimate event to get kids excited about construction … and parents a much-needed naptime afterward.
“I hope kids get excited about construction and infrastructure construction in particular,” said Scoccolo. “Computers will be tools in our work, but workers build our country, and a competent workforce is one thing you can’t outsource. Workers have to be at the worksite to perform the work. Many kids that attended this year’s Dozer Day event also attended it last year, and this year they brought their friends and family with them. That’s what we’re looking for, repeat customers that ultimately want to volunteer to work at the event. Some of them may even ask one of our sponsors about summer employment opportunities. The kids that show interest in the industry will be easy to spot.”
Carter’s response to the event? “I want to be a worker man.” (a.k.a. construction worker). Looks like Dozer Day’s mission was accomplished.