What a blast! ‘Touch a Truck’ fest thrills the kids

Honking horns on great big trucks blasted away at last Saturday’s Touch a Truck Family Festival hosted by the Kindergarten Readiness Collaborative and sponsored by the PNC Grow Up Great Program. Thousands of youngsters and parents showed up at the Indian River County Fairgrounds to touch, climb and experience the thrill of sitting in trucks that are normally viewed from afar.

“We are all about civil service and this gives the kids a glimpse of what we do,” said Indian River Battalion Chief David Kiernan, as a long line of children waited patiently to climb into the cab of a firetruck and honk its emergency horn. “Seeing their faces light up is the greatest joy of the day. This is something they will likely remember the rest of their lives.”

Children could play the role of police officers too, by clamoring into the Indian River County Sheriff’s honor guard truck and patrol car.

“Kids love to honk the horn and we’ll turn on the lights every so often,” said Dep. Fletcher McClellan. “This is a great family event and it gives us a chance to interact with the preschoolers when they are so impressionable.”

In all there were more than 40 vehicles at the event, including a collection of tractors ranging from massive to pint size. Children ran excitedly from jeeps and buses to a trolley, and stood mesmerized by the size of huge dump trucks and cranes. A moving van filled with bubble wrap gave youngsters an opportunity to make even more noise.

“My kids are having so much fun,” exclaimed Nicole Hollen, attending with her husband and children ages 7, 5 and 16 months. “I think the garbage truck was their favorite because they see it weekly. Now when it comes by they can visualize the interior of the cab.”

Three-year-old Max Cathcart, attending with his mom, dad and little brother, disagreed with that assessment. “The garbage truck stinks,” he said. His favorites by far were the tractors.

Inside the pavilion nearly 30 groups sponsored play areas. Squeals of laughter ricocheted off the walls as little ones crawled through plastic tunnels, played with Tonka trucks and building blocks, and colored to their hearts’ content. Bubbles the Clown created balloon animals and several volunteers were kept busy painting sweet faces. Free books and dental-care bags were given to children, and free Starbucks coffee energized the parents. Of course, many also indulged in snow cones and ices in the true spirit of an outdoor festival.

“We are thrilled at the turnout today,” said Shannon Maitland, community engagement manager for the Kindergarten Readiness Collaborative. “I’m amazed and humbled at the sheer number of businesses and organizations that have come together to stage this event. No one is collecting a paycheck today. Literally everyone is volunteering their time. We recruited the teen volunteers from schools, giving them an opportunity to earn community service credit that can be reflected on their college applications.  Most signed up for a two-hour shift but they are having so much fun that they stay all day.”

The Kindergarten Readiness Collaborate helps prepare children for kindergarten in five areas: social/emotional, physical health and well-being, cognitive, communication, and adaptive learning.

For more information, visit krcirc.org.    

Article by: Kerry Firth, correspondent

Photos by: Benjamin Thacker
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