Horns were honking, kids were smiling and parents were holding up their cameras at the 10th annual Touch-A-Truck event Saturday morning sponsored by the Gainesville Parks and Recreation.
Every year, Gainesville and Hall County government departments and local businesses bring some of their heavy equipment and work vehicles for children to discover.
"It’s fun for everyone," said Amanda Adam, the Recreation Program Coordinator, who has been working with Touch-A-Truck for four years. "Parents get to come and act like kids and kids get to come and have fun with their parents. It also gets community businesses and agencies involved."
The event was free and offered a close-up look at fire trucks, an ambulance, sheriff’s trucks, tractor-trailer cabs, a UPS truck and more.
It didn’t take long for kids and parents to crowd City Park, but a big group was expected.
"Our crowds get larger every year," Adam said. "It’s something that has become incredibly popular, so everyone wants to come and participate."
Gainesville resident Elisa Matthews said she likes the fact that Touch-A-Truck is a safe event for kids to take part in.
"When can you get on a Sheriff Command Bus and look in there and see what it’s all about?" Matthews said. "You get to meet all of these people who drive all of these neat trucks, and it’s an experience that you just can’t find anywhere else."
Matthews has been attending Touch-A-Truck since her 6-year-old was in a stroller.
"Kids are infatuated with all of these big things," she said. "They’re curious and they want to touch it and see what it’s about — honk the horns, push the buttons — do all of that kind of stuff. They love it."
It was Gainesville resident Stephanie White’s first year at Touch-A-Truck. She decided to come because her son and nephew both love trucks.
"My son is scared of police officers and fireman," said White. "He’s really scared of all the noise, and this is helping him overcome that fear, which he needs to."
Six-year-olds Lane White and Jeremiah Miller both were enjoying the trucks.
"I got to sit in a fire truck!" Jeremiah said proudly.
No matter if you’re 6, 13 or 50, participants at the event seemed to agree on one thing: Everyone likes the fire trucks.
"It’s fun to climb on something that could save your life," Adam said.
Niles Corey, a Firefighter 3 Driver, was helping with Touch-A-Truck for his fourth year in a row.
Corey said that Touch-A-Truck is a great community event because "the kids get to interact with the trucks and see all of the tools and equipment and talk with the firemen."
"It’s a great opportunity to see all of the city’s offers and the trucks that are out there," Corey said. "It gets kids
familiar and keeps them from being scared of everything."
Tabitha Ellerbee, a Gainesville resident, likes the fact that the kids get "a hands-on experience of what drivers do every day."
Ellerbee was at the event with American Waste & Recycling. The team had a trash can set up with friendly eyes and a happy smile as their "mascot." Kids and parents could enter a contest to name the mascot. The first-place winner would receive a Netbook Computer plus six months of premium service.
The American Waste & Recycling crew already named one of its big trucks the "Green Machine."
Nine-year-olds Hannah Tadman and Darleen Ellerbee were hanging out in front of the "Green Machine" helping people fill out the contest forms.
"I like looking at all of the trucks and hearing the horns," Hannah said.
Darleen said that she thinks it is important for kids to come to Touch-A-Truck "to see all of the trucks and learn about what’s inside of them."
With the help of parents and firefighters, kids jumped at the opportunity to climb in the fire trucks and look around. Horns blared from numerous trucks at once as the kids investigated their new territory. The excitement on the children’s faces showed why the Touch-A-Truck event has been successful for 10 years.
"Kids love to be able to climb and explore," Adam said. "This is a perfect way for them to explore different types of vehicles and jobs in one place."