Largo's Touch-a-Truck Event Delights Kids of All Ages
The City of Largo's 16th Annual Touch-A-Truck Event and Florida Clown Day showcased vehicles, pony rides, food and music.
Rows and rows of different trucks lined Largo Central Park's playground parking lot. Vendors brought vehicles of every description: Bayfront's Mediflight helicopter, firetrucks, police cars, a race car, motorcycles, 18-wheelers, postal trucks, a Publix truck, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority Smart Bus, dump trucks and Coast Guard boats.
Kids waited in line for their chance to hop aboard and take control of the wheel. Horns blared, as kids delighted in hearing what sound each vehicle could make.
One of the show stoppers were the tricks performed by the Menzi Muck excavator truck. Adults and kids stopped to watch the truck climb skyward, turning its front wheels inward and snapping its claw-like head.
"It's like Transformers," said Bryan Clarke, who stood and watched with his young son.
Bayfront’s Mediflight helicopter sat on the northeast side of the park. Kids lined up to sit in the backseat.
“This is one of our favorites,” said Pauline Valdivieso. She attended with her husband and three kids, Alessandra, 9, Adrianna, 8, and Raymond Jr., 6. “We come every year.”
“It’s so cool,” said Adrianna, after climbing out of the Mediflight helicopter. “There’s so much stuff back there.”
From helicopter to coast guard boats, the vehicles gave kids a chance to play with the wheel, gears or CB radios.
"It's fun. The kids love it, though my twelve-year old decided not to come this year," said Kristin Brillant, a first grade teacher at Cross Bayou. Her son, Aaron, 9, picked up the boat’s radio, leaned toward the window and posed for his mom.
Another teacher, from Largo Middle School, Joe Bereczki, brought his wife, Erin, and their two-year old son, Hayden.
"He loves trucks," said Bereczki, who tried to get his young son to look up and spy the top of the firefighter's ladder. In his mom's arms, Hayden leaned up and said, "I see the ladder."
Before you think this was a boys only event, girls enjoyed taking the wheel, too.
Seven-year-old Samantha hopped on a Harley Davidson motorcycle, one of several bikes brought by the the Blue Knights.
"Last year, we tried, but it was raining," said Rachel Maniaci, Largo resident. "This is the first year attending with our daughter. It's fun."
Mickey Wright said the cars aren't just for boys. "I always wanted to be a race car driver," said Wright. "I remember saying it at 18 years old."
It was Wright's first year at the event, showing off her race car and answering questions on how fast she drives and how she squeezes inside the car to get in the driver's seat. "I think it's a great experience [for the kids]," she said.
Largo's Parks and Recreation representatives introduced kids to local animals and plants.
"We wanted to bring something that kids could do hands-on and interactive. We would have loved to bring some animals, but with the horns, that would've scared the animals," said Joel Quattlebaum, nature program specialist.
The group brought tabletop sandboxes and molds of animal feet. Kids pressed the molds into the sand to learn the different types of footprints.
"It's very hands-on. Stuff for the kids to pick up and play. We promote many family-oriented events," said Sandie Arthur, Friends of Largo Library volunteer coordinator.
The event also featured Florida Clown Day, hosted by Largo Uptown Clowns. Over 100 clowns from Florida clubs, or alleys, strolled through the park. The clowns performed tricks, face paintings and balloon animals for the kids. One veteran clown, Vondie, started her clowning career 30 years ago.
“I was interested in the circus. I was inspired by the Ringing Brothers Circus, the colors. I attended a show with my husband who was disabled. A girl clown came over to us and started flirting with him. My husband was thrilled and so was I,” said Vondie. "I wanted to do the same thing and bring joy to someone like she did.”
The family fun included rides on Largo Central Railroad Inc., which usually runs their miniature trains on the first full weekend of the month. Kids explored butterflies in The Butterfly Encounter and enjoyed pony rides, both hosted by Raggity Dog Productions.
Disc Jockey Christina Huebel, owner of High Velocity Entertainment, rocked the park and inspired a hula-hoop spinning contest.
Some of the fun included learning, including vision testing by the Largo Lions Club. “We must’ve had 80 to 100 kids come through today,” said Dr. Ron Tucker. "It's a lot of fun to see the kids."
Kids of all ages enjoyed the event. Palm Harbor resident Melanie Miller brought her tween and teen daughter, who climbed in most the vehicles and posed for pictures.
"They're having a great time," Miller said.