Children get to operate bulldozers and other heavy equipment at annual event
Organizers are excited about the changes, the new dates, the weather forecast, and an opportunity for children to get back in the dirt, operating large construction equipment.
Oh yeah, Dozer Day is back this weekend at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds.
The name is singular, but the event is really two days of action — Saturday and Sunday — plus a career day on Friday for high school juniors and seniors.
“Last year was just about starting to get back in the swing of things,” said Renee Nutter, the president of the Nutter Foundation, noting the return of the event after the pandemic. “Now, everybody is so ready to get out and have fun again.”
The Nutter Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises funds for children’s organizations. It runs Dozer Day, “Where Kids Drive.”
And the children don’t just drive around golf carts or small vehicles.Children get behind the wheels of big rigs, huge pieces of equipment, bulldozers and more. Nutter said there will be 17 pieces of heavy equipment in the pit for children to operate (with an adult supervisor, of course) and dig.
There will also be equipment for older children, too. Not just for the youngsters.
Beyond operating the big equipment, children also will get a chance to make their own construction sites with Tonka trucks in a sand pile. That’s one of Nutter’s favorite things to see.
“It’s so neat. Kids who don’t even know each other, all of a sudden they are working together to create a work zone,” Nutter said. “The kids get hard hats, too. They have to get ready for the work day.”
There will be a tire climb, courtesy Les Schwab Tires.
Dozer Day in Clark County started years ago as a one-day event. It has grown into a weekend event, and it has moved from a location in east Vancouver to the fairgrounds.
This year, the event also moved to October There was a conflict with the nearby amphitheater during the spring. Turns out, the weather forecast for this weekend is near perfect.
“What we thought was a hiccup has actually turned into a blessing,” Nutter said, noting that the sponsors are all-in with the changes, and they are bringing new ideas to the event.
One of the new sponsors is Taylor Morrison, one of the nation’s largest homebuilders and developers.
“There is a lot of excitement on our team. ‘Oh my gosh, we’re sponsoring Dozer Day? This is huge.’ We intend to have a longstanding relationship with Dozer Day,” said Alaina Robertson, the division president for Taylor Morrison Homes in Portland and Southwest Washington.
Robertson said it is incredible what Dozer Day has done in its years of operation, raising more than $2.1 million for more than 200 children’s organizations.
Robertson said her company’s sponsorship is in part to promote the industry, grow its brand recognition, and get out there alongside their trade partners, but it is more about giving back to the community.
Taylor Morrison will have an information booth at Dozer Day for parents to learn about what they do, building “homes inspired by you.” Children will be asked to draw their dream homes. The best drawings, or the most inspirational pieces of art, will win prizes, such as remote control tractors.
The first Dozer Day was held in Wisconsin, and in 2008, the Nutter Foundation acquired the rights to Dozer Day. Now, there are many Dozer Day events throughout the country, all raising money for children’s charities.
The Nutter Foundation, based in Vancouver, describes Dozer Day as like going to the fair, “only our rides are real heavy construction equipment.”
In recent years, Dozer Day has added a career day element, as well. On Friday, the day before Dozer Day opens for its original mission of family fun, hundreds of students from nearby high schools will be going out to the site. There, they will go through mock interviews with industry leaders, and get a feel for the opportunities in skilled trade.
Robertson said Taylor Morrison is the first builder to sponsor Dozer Day. Being part of Career Day is a real benefit, too.
“We’re really excited about it because it really shows the breadth of our industry,” Robertson said. “Career day is a great opportunity to talk to our high school students.
“We need people who are innovative and looking to find solutions for housing.”
Taylor Morrison and the other sponsors are looking forward to providing that message.
“We’re really hoping to have the conversation with students about the long-ranging career opportunities that exist for them,” Robertson said. “We need people in the trades. They can have really great, lucrative careers by choosing to be a union carpenter or a plumber. You strap on your work belt for the work day but then you are done for the day. You choose to work to live instead of live to work.”
Bart Hansen, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Clark County, is also looking forward to Career Day. The BIA is a sponsor of Dozer Day, and will be promoting the Building Futures Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the BIA.
“The Building Futures Foundation is connecting our youth with all the opportunities available to them and driving home to them that the trades are an avenue that is underutilized as far as a career path,” Hansen said.
Builders, developers, construction companies and more are in need of finding future talent.
Career Day gets older teens thinking about careers in the industry. Dozer Day events just might get even younger children interested in the building industry, as well.
Plus, it is a weekend of fun.
That is a win-win, Robertson and Hansen said.
Dozer Day is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the fairgrounds. Tickets cost $15 online or $20 at the event. There is also a $6 charge for parking.
For more information on Dozer Day, go to: https://vancouver.dozerday.org/
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