Kids take the driver’s seat at annual Touch-a-Truck event in State College

cmccracken@centredaily.comJune 28, 2014 

— As Lia Schrag, 5, climbed out of a school bus at the Touch-a-Truck event, her face shone with excitement and curiosity.

“I’m probably most excited to see the small bus over there,” Lia said. “I don’t know about everything, but it’s really cool here. I’m just really excited to be here. I’ve been on two buses and a lawnmower so far.”

On Saturday, Centre Region Parks and Recreation held its 10th annual Touch-a-Truck event, sponsored by Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc., at the State College Area High School driver training lot.

It’s an opportunity for children to climb into trucks, buses and construction vehicles — and to take home goodies from vendors, such as snacks, coloring books, crayons, bubbles, hard hats and more.

Beth Lee, of State College, is a recreation supervisor for programs and special events and is dedicated to this event.

“When I moved here, a friend had done this with her Parks and Rec department and I got to know some of the employees through Hawbaker, so it became a partnership that way,” Lee said. “They wanted to be our sponsor, and so we just started asking all the different vendors, townships and businesses; they were more than happy to bring their vehicles out, so it works.”

Although the event doesn’t take an immense amount of time to put together, Lee keeps her eyes open for new ideas year-round.

“I’m constantly driving around town, or around the state or the country, and looking at trucks and saying, ‘Oh, I need that for Touch-a-Truck!’ ”

The wide variety of trucks included a Centre Area Transportation Authority bus, school buses, a Fullington bus, construction vehicles, an ambulance and more, but the most popular among the kids seemed to be the firetruck.

“I like the fire truck,” 7-year-old Hannah Gray said. “I’m going to get on it after my baby brother.” She said she hoped he wouldn’t honk the horn because “it’s too loud and hurts my ears.”

Scott Holmes, 6, also explored the fire truck.

“I got to go up in the cherry picker,” Scott said. “It went really high and I got to see all of the other trucks.”

Other kids preferred the construction vehicles.

Preston Biederman, 10, was most excited to see “the dump truck, I guess, because it’s just big and it carries stuff.”

And 9-year-old Ethan Fong, who has been attending Touch-a-Truck for eight years, enjoys the trucks, but also the social aspect of the event.

“I like coming with friends because they give me company,” Ethan said.

Lee said she thinks the event is not only beneficial to the kids, but also to the operators of the trucks.

“We do it because so many kids in town see these vehicles, but to be able to climb into them, pretend to drive them, honk the horn and get up close, it’s a great eye-opening experience for them,” Lee said. “It’s also a great experience for the men and women who operate the vehicles; they don’t usually get that community connection, so I think that brings it all together.”

Casey McCracken can be reached at 231-4646.

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