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DIG IT! is HERE! A Word of Thanks from Exhibit Designer Deb Johnson

The DIG IT! exhibit actually began in 1998, after the St. Peter tornado. My son, Hans, was 2 years old.  He learned about the construction industry first hand as we walked around town and sat in every bulldozer and excavator we could find. We watched people show up for each other as the town rebuilt itself. And I learned how community is built.

Here at the Children’s Museum, we take play very seriously.  Authentic, local, found, and natural are core to our design intent and process. DIG IT! exemplifies all of these.

Thank You

To our sponsors; thank you for believing that we could create a workforce development exhibit that allows kids to experience the construction industry through play.

To Cemstone, our Ready Mix plant sponsor; I appreciate the field trips to your impressive facilities, and answering my endless questions as I tried to interpret your business in a way children could understand.  Thanks for hauling in fifteen tons of pea rock.  I hope you be pleased when you hear children walking around talking about slump.

To Holtmeier Construction, our Road Building/Quarry sponsor; Joe Holtmeier helped me start DIG IT!, the event, at the museum in 2016. Thanks for saying yes to some crazy ideas and for always sharing your time, money, and materials.

To Lorentz Construction, our Excavator Experience sponsor; thank you for getting me, Luke, and Garron in an excavator to feel the power of that machine and help us cement the idea for DIG IT!.

To Mathiowetz Construction, our Drone Experience Sponsor; thanks for your family’s support, for the field trip to sites to fly a drone, for sharing real construction site video, and for helping us develop a future, educated and skilled workforce.

To South Central College Customized Workforce Education; thank you Dr Parker, President of SCC, for your vision around workforce development and the importance your students’ civic engagement. James, Andy, Cody, Justin; thanks for hanging in there when the timeline and design constraints became real. I hope this project will inspire you to keep giving back to your communities as you finish your degrees.

John Wattleworth has dedicated hundreds of hours to this project. He’s the guy who says “we can do that. I don’t know how to do that yet, but we will figure it out.”  And then he delivers.

Loren Johns is a guy who can build anything. When I pitched the idea of DIG IT! to him he helped with design and parts and problem solving. Thanks for showing up over the last 10 years for the museum.

Thanks to JR Merritt for the joystick controls in the crane.  Showcasing heavy machinery joysticks was a must in an exhibit as big and important as this one.

Thank you, ISG for the incredible in-kind graphic design work on road building and for all the help on the walkways and mini excavator.

Allen Charnstrom, Dan Lingen, and Jake Stein at RDO Equipment, thank you for your technical support as we switched out the engine, welded on safety stops, and dialed the hydraulics back to a safe level that made it possible for us to have a real construction machine in an exhibit.

To Garron Williams, our facility manager; thanks for being so responsible and dependable, for learning new skills, and for contributing great ideas. I am so fortunate to have worked with you and to call you my friend.

To Luke Splinter, our lead fabricator; thanks for being steady, flexible, skilled and always ready to learn. I don’t always know how or where the ideas will lead us or how we’ll find the right support, but your confidence in our work to create awe-inspiring things for children is deeply appreciated.

Thank you, all, for helping us build community while creating an awe-inspiring environment for children.

Now, let’s play!

–Edited from opening night remarks, provided by Deb Johnson

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