All the feels: Touch a Truck event returns to Vail’s Ford Park on Saturday

Family-friendly event will include no horns or sirens for the first half-hour

Nico Milchev, 2, of Edwards checks out a street sweeper during the Vail Library's Touch-a-Truck event last May in Vail. All different kinds of trucks were on display, from construction to public safety to maintenance, and gave kids a hands-on experience while exploring the trucks.
Chris Dillmann | Daily file photo

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It’s called Touch a Truck, but event organizer Jess Blumenfeld said that’s the most basic encapsulation of what will take place Saturday at Ford Park in Vail for the second straight year.

“The kids wanted to call it ‘Get in the truck,’ because you could get in the truck and honk the horns,” said Blumenfeld of the popular, free event that allows kids and parents to get a hands-on, close-up, sensory experience with emergency vehicles like a firetruck, ambulance and a police car.

Saturday’s event runs from 10 a.m. to noon at the parking lot next to the park and will be sensory-friendly for the first half-hour with an embargo on air horns and sirens. Parents are also encouraged to bring noise-canceling headphones for their children when the horns get honking and the sirens start wailing.

Along with the emergency response vehicles, there will be trash and recycling trucks from Vail Honeywagon and vehicles from the town of Vail’s public works department: a backhoe, a tandem dump truck, a street sweeper and a bobcat.

‘A home run all the way’

Blumenfeld, a lead preschool teacher at the Vail Child Care Center, said she initially got the idea for the community event from her 5-year-old nephew in Vermont.

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“He doesn’t talk a lot, and he went on for hours about it,” Blumenfeld said. “I just thought it would be fun to bring it here to Vail.”

She also mentioned this anecdote from her time working with children at the Vail Child Care Center.

“Our kids’ favorite part of the day is when the trash truck comes,” she said. “They literally drop everything they’re doing. They get excited when the UPS truck comes or they see a firetruck.”

Two children explore the cab of a truck during last May’s Touch a Truck event in Vail.
Chris Dillmann | Daily file photo

Blumenfeld initially approached Cricket Pylman, who runs the children’s programs at the Vail Public Library, about bringing Touch a Truck to the Vail Valley.

“She knew that I had some resources with the town,” Pylman said. “Of course I loved it right away.”

Pylman reached out to other town departments, and she said the initial reaction from various department heads at the town of Vail was as enthusiastic as hers.

“It was a new idea to me,” Pylman said. “I hadn’t been exposed to it, but it’s a fun thing. In a big city, they get so many vehicles. I think this is such a good filler for the locals, too. It’s nice to do something for the locals now and then during the offseason. We at the library, we love partnering. That’s one of our big goals. Part of our mission is collaboration within the community. It was just a home run all the way.”

Not just for the kids

Saturday’s event allows the first responders and public works department workers, as well as parents, to be kids themselves.

Mark Novak, the fire chief for the town of Vail, said he’s sending one engine out with a crew of three.

“It’s a great event for our guys,” Novak said. “They love interacting with the community, and it’s always special to interact with children. There’s not a child out there who doesn’t love to sit in a firetruck and talk to firefighters.”

Charlie Turnbull, the street superintendent for the town of Vail, said his operators love showing off their equipment to a captive audience.

“They really get into doing it for the kids,” he said. “It’s been a good thing. The kids get to look at the equipment, the firetrucks, the cars, and I have some of my operators take the kids and show them how all the stuff all works.”

“The operators are all sweethearts,” Pylman added. “We put the kids right up inside the vehicle, and they let them turn on the lights and do stuff. They’ll probably have a bowl of candy in there, as well, and there’s swag for the kids.”

There will also be an ice cream truck, because, of course.

Blumenfeld said it was obvious, after helping to organize the inaugural event last year, that making Touch a Truck an annual happening in Vail was a no-brainer.

“So many kids came and they were ecstatic about the trucks,” she said. “They wanted to do it again. I had people asking me if we were going to do it again next week.”

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