Horns, sirens, and the rumble of diesel engines drew some 4,000 people to Roanoke County Parks, Recreation and Tourism’s inaugural “Touch a Truck” at Green Hill Park near Salem on Saturday.
More than 130 vehicles of all kinds were on hand to be touched, sat in, or climbed on, ranging from a giant yellow dump truck to fire engines, humvees and construction equipment. Adding to the fun were hay rides, a petting zoo, crafts, a balloon sculptor, food vendors, and a giant vat of “fireman’s foam.”
“It’s awesome!” said Sharona Richardson of Roanoke, who had just finished riding high up in a cherry picker basket with sons Michael,10, and David, 6. “There are a lot of unique sounds.”
Both Richardson boys said their favorite trucks at the festival were the SWAT truck and, of course, the cherry picker. Nathan Redd of Hillsville, 4, said his favorite was “the Kenworth, because it’s loud,” while 8-year-old Ray Gardner of Salem said his favorites were “that one and that one,” pointing to two big rigs parked side-by-side.
Event organizer Wendy Schultz said the event grew out of a previous special event, Summer Blast, which featured 10 to 15 vehicles among its attractions. But the trucks overwhelmed that event and the decision was made to create an event that put the spotlight on the big haulers.
“Touch-a-truck” events are popular around the state, with similar events being held in Virginia Beach, Henrico County, and Fairfax County. Schultz said she came up with the idea for the first one in Roanoke County, “but no one really comes up with an idea by themselves.” While trucks made up the majority of the vehicles on display, “It’s wheels, wings, and water,” said Schultz. Carilion’s Lifeguard 10 made an appearance, and photographers were on hand to take free portraits of children seated in the cockpit of a jet plane.
Fort Lewis Volunteer Fire Department provided both the soap and the water. They filled a fenced-in area with non-toxic soap bubbles generated from a blower on the back of a pickup. The “fireman’s foam” drew large crowds of children who waded neck-deep in the white fluff. To rinse off, the kids played under a mist of water spraying from the end of an extended fire engine’s ladder.
“It’s a pretty good hit,” said Fort Lewis Chief Woody Henderson as he worked the fan that blew the bubbles. Gusts of wind blew clumps of the bubbles high into the air and across the festival grounds, silhouetting them against a bright blue sky.
Schultz said she organized the event with just one other person, her assistant Denise Pully, who Schultz said recruited 70 of the vehicles by herself. The National Association of Women in Construction provided six volunteers for the event, while the Roanoke Regional Home Builders Association also pitched in.
“We couldn’t believe all the positive comments,” said Schultz.By Gene Marrano [email protected]