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Touch-A-Truck lets kids get up close to the real thing
City Park event will have big rigs and all their bells and whistles
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Curtis Bailey, service manager at the Gainesville Truck Center, stands at the door of a 2010 Mack Titan that will be at the Touch-A-Truck event Saturday. - photo by Tom Reed

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Which truck's horn is this? (Scroll down for answer) A: Fire engine

0820Trucks-Rescue

Which truck's horn is this? (Scroll down for answer) A: Rescue truck

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Which truck's horn is this? (Scroll down for answer) A: Mack truck

Touch-A-Truck

When: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday
Where: City Park, Gainesville
How much: Free

They’re big. They grumble. They burn some rubber.

And for many kids, all they want to do is get up close to these big rigs and touch them.

Well, Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. they’ll have their chance at Gainesville’s 10th annual Touch-A-Truck event. Fire trucks, ambulances, tractor-trailer cabs and even a UPS truck will be there with drivers showing kids how the rigs work and how loud their horns can blow.

There will even be a truck used to dig water wells, complete with a tall drill.

We spoke with a few of the people who drive these machines about what it’s like to be behind the wheel. And we also got some audio of these trucks sounding their horns. Go to our Web site to see if you can tell which is which.

2010 Mack Titan

Curtis Bailey has been helping customers at Gainesville Truck Center for years, but he remembers when he used to drive trucks for a living, too.

“If it’s something you love, it’s something you love,” he said, standing in front of the cherry-red truck built to pull construction equipment on a flat trailer. “It’s something that’s in your blood.”

This chrome-covered truck will be among the trucks on display at Saturday’s Touch-A-Truck.

To drive a big rig like this, drivers must first take classes and get a commercial drivers license. Once it is issued, it is good in any state, he said.

Many truck drivers who spend days on the road do it because they don’t like to be tied down, he said.

“People who drive over the road love the freedom.”

Fire rescue truck

When Darrin Whitmire hears the call for “rescue five” over the scanner, his reaction is almost automatic.

After 23 years working for Hall County Fire Services, Whitmire said much of the drive to the call — whether it’s an accident or a fire — is spent thinking about what to do once he gets there, and the best way to handle it.

The rescue truck gets called to both vehicle crashes and fires because it carries equipment that could be used in both situations. If the rescue truck isn’t called out on an emergency on Saturday, kids can get a look at the many compartments it has along its sides, holding items needed for different kinds of rescue missions. There’s heavy-duty lifts that can push apart a few tons of pressure with a bit of air, there’s ropes and air tanks and the “jaws of life.”

“You start thinking about the call and what you have to do,” Whitmire said.

Fire engine

Imagine being behind the wheel of a truck with screaming horns, flashing lights and 750 gallons of water in your trunk.

That’s what it’s like for Bradley Orr, a 19-year veteran of Hall County Fire Services, when he gets a call that the fire engine is needed somewhere in Hall County.

“It’s fun,” grinned Orr, who said he learned to drive the truck after just being on the job, taking “apparatus operator” classes and watching others do it.

He said it can get tricky maneuvering around turns while racing to get to a fire, but at the same time he keeps it safe.

“The weight catches up sometimes,” Orr said of the water stored in the truck. “Usually we don’t try to break any (speed) records.”

The fire engine can also respond to an emergency as a medical unit, Orr said, as he’s also trained as an EMT and carries some supplies on the truck. On Saturday, kids can see its 24-foot ladder and get an up-close look at the many gauges that control the water pressure coming out of the truck.

UPS delivery truck

The men in brown have a hectic schedule.

Each morning, they set out with dozens of deliveries to make, all before businesses have to close for the day.

That means Kyle Coffee has a lot of hectic days.

A driver for UPS for 13 years, Coffee knows the streets of downtown Gainesville like the back of his hand, and will open his delivery truck to kids on Saturday so they can see where all their packages are stored before they land on the front porch.

Coffee said he loves to drive the truck because it keeps him from being in an office all day.

“You’re not in the office; that’s one good thing about it,” he said between delivery stops around downtown Gainesville. “You don’t have phones ringing off the hook.”

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