There was a lot of honking going on in downtown Bradenton at midday Saturday — and it was not a traffic jam.
Instead, children were getting a chance to climb in all sorts of trucks, honking their horns, pulling their levels and learning whatever made them special.
More than 400 families came to the Manatee County Central Library in downtown Bradenton for the third annual Touch a Truck event.
Eight-year-old Mekaal Sheikh sat inside the Bradenton Police Department’s SWAT vehicle, enthralled as an officer sat across, talking to him.
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“He told me a lot of the things police officers do but the SWAT team doesn’t do,” Mekaal said. “They do a lot of dangerous things.”
Mekaal seemed fascinated after hearing about how the SWAT team is called out to apprehend suspects in some situations. His mother stood smiling, taking pictures as her son and the officer spoke.
“It’s pretty cool,” he said of all the trucks. “This one so far is my favorite. I love police cars and this is a special one.”
The annual Touch a Truck event is hosted by the Manatee County Public Library System.
“The idea really just started out to have a fun event for fathers and kids. Since then, it has turned into a little bit more, we try to do a little STEM, science, technology engineering and math training,” Manatee libraries operations manager Kevin Beach said. “So, we have some activities inside for the kids in the children’s room, where they can build a truck.”
Beach smiled as he watched all the children scurry around the parking lot with their parents, hopping into the trucks and honking those horns.
“Out here they love to just to blow the horns and get to sit in the seats and learn what all the different operators do and how the different trucks work,” Beach said. “A very simple type of program ... in spite of the weather, we’ve had about 400 families show up today so we are very excited about it.”
Among the trucks included in the event were a fire engine from the Bradenton Fire Department, a SWAT vehicle from the Bradenton Police Department, a recycling truck from Waste Pro and several trucks from the Manatee County fleet including a garbage truck, a street cleaner and a semi used to haul other trucks. The county also brought out a new mini earth mover that it had only received two or three days ago, and it was getting a lot of attention.
Despite the rainy, windy and chilly conditions in Bradenton as a cold front came through, families started arriving as soon as the trucks did at 10 a.m., Beach said. The kids were so excited that the event started an hour ahead of schedule.
Operators also were enjoying the event, smiling as they happily showed children the trucks they use every day on the job.
“We issued several new cards. That’s what it’s all about, getting more people in our library using our materials,” Beach said.
Upstairs in the children’s wing of the library, 6-year-old Andrew Azzara played with Legos and was building a truck.
“It was loud out there,” Andrew said, adding that he hadn’t been scared by all the honking like his little brother, Matthew, had been. “I just wanted to come inside.”
But Andrew had enjoyed seeing the trucks, struggling to decide which his favorite was, quickly changing that from the firetruck to the garbage truck.
“I liked watching how it dumps its trash in the back,” Andrew said.