Steamboat Springs Eight-year-old Bekai Heffley, with some help Sunday afternoon, drove an excavator.
She operated the piece of heavy machinery at Dig This, off U.S. Highway 40 west of Steamboat Springs. The company allows adults to operate construction equipment for fun, but on Sunday, it was the children’s turn.
Bekai, wearing a yellow hardhat and orange safety vest, smiled as she thought about why she enjoyed the experience.
“You get to do stuff you don’t get to do every day,” she said.
Bekai and about 150 other children ages 12 and younger were able to spend 10 minutes driving an excavator or bulldozer, with help from a Dig This operator. The participants’ parents were asked to provide a donation to benefit the Ski Town USA Lions Club Scholarship Program.
Dig This owner Ed Mumm, a member of the Lions Club, said the Kids’ Day event was created to give back to Steamboat children, in addition to raising money for the organization’s scholarship fund.
Mumm said he thought it would be fun for the children, but he didn’t anticipate the reaction from their parents.
“I can tell from the look on the kids’ faces that they’re excited,” he said. “And the looks on their parents’ faces, you can tell they’re jealous.”
Steamboat residents Cari and Dave Merlina brought their 18-month-old son, Hudson, to the event.
“Hudson has really enjoyed watching the construction on Main Street,” Cari Merlina said about the Lincoln Avenue repaving project. “That helps us get through the traffic in the morning. He really enjoys watching the men work.”
Hudson was all smiles when Dig This operator Gordon Haxton brought him back to his parents after his ride in the bulldozer.
Resident Tom Brown also said his children, 3-year-old Ocean and 4-year-old Solana, love cruising through downtown Steamboat to check out the construction. But in addition to his children’s fascination with bulldozers, Brown said he wanted to support the Lions Club because his grandfather is a member.
Brown said Ocean and Solana each took three turns in the construction equipment. When asked if she had fun, Ocean just nodded her head and said “Uh-huh.”
Another 18-month-old, Ava Grace Appel, eagerly awaited her turn in the excavator Sunday afternoon, standing next to her 4-year-old brother James.
Their grandmother Christa Gardner brought them to the Kids’ Day event and said Ava Grace has been enthralled by the construction of Gossard Parkway, on Steamboat’s west side off Downhill Drive, near their home.
“Ava is obsessed with tractors,” Gardner said. “She stands there for hours watching the tractors. This gives them the opportunity to actually ride in the tractors.”
Bekai Heffley’s 10-year-old brother, Quentin, used one word to describe his experience driving a bulldozer: “Awesome.”
“You’re moving 2,000-pound boulders,” he said. “You can’t do that by yourself.”
Mumm said he hopes to make the Kids’ Day an annual event to benefit the Lions Club Scholarship Program.