Digging in

If you’re looking for something cool (really cool) to do for your kid’s birthday party this year — and if your kid’s really into trucks and other big vehicles, then you might take a look at the new venture that is Extreme Sandbox.

This family-run business in Hastings takes the touch-a-truck experience to a whole new level.

Extreme Sandbox — a 10-acre site about 30 miles southeast of St. Paul — lets all ages operate heavy machinery.

Randy Stenger, a father of three boys, opened Extreme Sandbox 2011 to a mostly grown-up audience, hosting corporate team-building outings, family reunions and specialty parties for adults.

It didn’t take long, of course, before Stenger noticed that kids were equally eager to run the earth-moving machines. 

So after dealing with the kind of red tape that can only come from telling the government you want to put children into 38,000-pound work machines, Stenger began creating party packages for kids.

Regina Getnick of Bloomington discovered Extreme Sandbox when she planned a surprise 40th birthday party for her husband recently. 

Her 9-year-old son, Noah, was a spectator during the event and was instantly interested in getting into the driver’s seat himself.

Noah got his wish this past March, when his family hosted one of the company’s first specifically child-focused birthday parties.  

“Everyone had fun,” Getnick said of the group of 10 kids, ranging from age 4 to 11. “The facility was really nice. The kids were all allowed to climb into the equipment with adult supervision and they were allowed to explore on their own while other kids were having training.” 

Each kid was allowed to spend one-on-one time in the backhoe with an instructor during the two-hour party, too.

Noah’s favorite part? “The horn!” he said, without hesitation.

The fire truck was a surprising hit at Noah’s party as well.

“I thought it’d be too basic, more of a preschool-level interest,” Getnick said. “But for this group of 9-year-olds, they were fascinated by the fire truck.” 

Staff really engaged the kids in learning about the different functions of the fire truck.

“I’d seen them instruct adults — and I knew they were good at working with adults who had no experience — but I was impressed with their ability to engage with the little guys and keep them entertained the whole time,” Getnick said.  

Sit-down party festivities such as pizza, presents and cake can be hosted in the company’s 4,000-square-foot open-air garage turned event space that seats up to 200.

“It’s a cool experience,” Getnick said. “I watched my husband do it with all his buddies first, and they were having just as much fun as the kids did. There’s obviously an appeal to all ages. 

“And my daughter also enjoyed it, so I think it will appeal to anyone.”


Book a party

Extreme Sandbox

1901 Glendale Road, Hastings

855-344-4386 (DIG-4-FUN)


Packages start at $195 for individuals and $495 for groups. 

Call at least three to four weeks ahead of time to schedule.


Amy Sutton is a St. Paul-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to Minnesota Parent.