Four-year-old Imogen Lyons and 7-year-old Jasper Lyons took a ride in a big yellow dump truck Saturday morning.
With a driver there to guide them, the kids circled a patch of dirt at the back end of a gravel pit on the outskirts of Belgrade. It was where Eagle Mount and partners put on the 10th annual Digger Days.
Children can hop on heavy equipment of all sizes and types, clamber up gravel hills and spray fire hoses at Digger Days. Imogen said she spent the morning at the helm of the dump truck, an excavator and a steamroller.
“It felt good,” she said. “It’s not scary.”
The pair were there with their parents, Vickie and Andy. The family has gone to Digger Days before but missed the event last year because of the pandemic. The family likes to attend because it’s great fun, Vickie said. Vickie spent some time on Saturday running up and down a gravel hill with the kids.
It’s been hard for families to come together during a pandemic, so having a safe, family-friendly event like Digger Days is great, Andy said. Digger Days is also for an important cause, he said.
Stephanie Uter, associate director of development for Eagle Mount, said money raised at Digger Days goes toward the nonprofit organization’s programs. Eagle Mount offers adaptive sports and recreation opportunities for people with special needs as well as oncology camps.
“It’s an amazing event for the Bozeman community,” she said. “The amount of support from the community that gets behind the event is unbelievable.”
Because of the pandemic, organizers this year pre-sold tickets online, offered masks and hand sanitizer and sanitized all the equipment mid-day. Uter expected around 3,000 people would show up throughout the day.
The busy scene on Saturday was far different than last year’s Digger Days, when companies brought out a few pieces of heavy equipment. Only Eagle Mount members were able to attend, according to Uter.
Eagle Mount along with Digger Days founding partners TMC Inc., SIME Construction and Knife River on Saturday brought out about 50 pieces of heavy machinery for families to enjoy. The partners had support from many other local businesses and organizations, including Caterpillar Inc. and Martel Construction Inc.
Numerous volunteers came out to help drive the heavy equipment and run the event, including construction workers, 4-H kids from Manhattan and some Boy Scouts, according to Ron Pike, owner and president of TMC Inc. and SIME Construction.
Belgrade Police Department officers and Central Valley Fire District firefighters also brought out a patrol car and a fire engine for families to check out.
Recruiting new workers has been difficult recently, so construction companies want to get children interested in heavy equipment at a young age. Digger Days is a great way for companies to show what they do, Pike said.
“(Digger Days) is a great way for the construction community to give back to the community and Eagle Mount,” he said. “We thank everybody that helps out and contributes their money and time. The generosity is much appreciated.”