- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

JACKSON, Tenn. (AP) - A siren wailed and truck horns blared Wednesday morning, making Jackson Fairgrounds Park sound like a big city at rush hour.

But these were kids, not adults, and this was play, not work.

Over a dozen public service vehicles were stationed at the park Wednesday, and local kids spent time visiting each one. They learned from the operators what the vehicles are for, and took turns climbing inside.

Sandra MacDiarmid, superintendent of recreation for the Jackson Recreation and Parks Department, said the “Touch-A-Truck” event is rooted in a Career Day that started about 20 years ago.

After a tornado struck Jackson in 2003, some kids in the badly damaged parts of the city were traumatized by what happened and unfamiliar with the National Guard equipment that was being used to repair damage, MacDiarmid said. So her department got the volunteers together and brought the kids to meet the workers and check out the equipment.



“They got to not only meet them but they got to sit up in the driver’s seat, blow the horn and learn about what the different trucks were here for and what they were doing for Jackson,” MacDiarmid said. “We’ve been going ever since then. It gets bigger every year.”

Large groups representing summer camps in Jackson and Humboldt accounted for most of the kids present early Wednesday, but the event was open to the public and a handful of other kids came with their families.

Vehicles explored included a fire truck, ambulance, police car, Waste Management truck, TDOT truck, Red Cross disaster relief truck and more. The Jackson Police Department SWAT team brought a large tank along with the truck SWAT officers ride in to a scene.

Max Richardson, 8, of East Elementary School and Stewart Taylor, 7, of St. Mary’s School enjoyed one spot that involved no vehicles but instead a large robot.

Two members of the police department’s bomb squad showed kids how the robot moves. It can be used to diffuse a possible explosive without putting a person so close in potential harm.

The bomb squad officers had also placed on the ground a protective suit they can wear in especially dangerous situations, and on a table they included a couple replicas of explosives to show the kids what they look like.

Nearby, a police officer stood next to a patrol car and kept the right rear door open so kids could take turns sitting in the backseat. He handed each kid a sticker that looked like a police badge.

The officer showed how the rear door does not have a handle, and one kid asked about the bars on the window.

“Normally when we put people back there, they’re not happy to be back there,” the officer responded. Other kids asked the officer more questions, like if he had caught anyone lately or if he carried a Taser.

The helicopter that was present is a big hit every year, MacDiarmid said.

Over 100 vendors attended, offering blood pressure checks and information about other community services and activities. Pee Wee Williamson-Easley oversaw the vehicles parked outside Wednesday, and said she hoped for around 2,000 kids to attend.

Williamson-Easley thanked some adults she saw for bringing kids to an educational event, and MacDiarmid said that aspect is important.

“(Kids) get to learn about what they do and what their jobs are and learn a little bit more about the different service agencies and what they do for Jackson,” MacDiarmid said.

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Information from: The Jackson Sun, https://www.jacksonsun.com

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