STAFFORD – It isn’t often that a 2-year-old can get behind the wheel of a large vehicle, but Matthew Graham of Little Egg Harbor enjoyed it so much he didn’t want to let go of the steering wheel at the 3rd Annual “Touch A Truck” event that drew thousands of people to Manahawkin Lake Park.
Matthew, who burst into tears when his mother Michelle Graham pried him away from the driver’s seat of the 1922 Stafford Township Fire Company fire pumper to give other children a turn, was sitting in one of 50 vehicles parked within the recreational area.
“This was our first time coming out to this event but I knew it would be a lot of fun,” Graham said.
Taking over at the wheel from little Matthew was 6-year-old Pauli Mastrangelo of Stafford Township. He and his mother Rose were also newcomers to the event sponsored by township Chamber of Commerce.
“He gets to climb on things without getting in trouble. It is a nice thing for kids to actually be allowed to go up and touch something,” Rose Mastrangelo said.
Ray Valladares, a member of the board of directors for the Stafford Township Chamber of Commerce described the event as being a very “family-friendly, free event that offers children a hands-on opportunity to learn and interact with community first responders, non-profits, local organizations and businesses while exploring many different types of trucks and vehicles.”
Among the vehicles on display included various military, police, fire, EMS, utility, construction, and commercial trucks. The event also featured face painting, balloon animals, inflatables, a bounce house, games, RC Car Racing, music provided by WJRZ, food vendors, and craft/local business vendors.
Alex Scherer and Brian Sullivan who own Jersey Shore Pavers brought their tandem model dump truck.
“We brought our wives and children to this event and they are having fun as well. This is our second year to be part of it,” Scherer said.
While you could touch the many trucks, emergency vehicles, police vehicles and fire trucks present, the one vehicle you couldn’t touch was a recreation of the famous DeLorean time machine from the “Back To The Future” trilogy of films. The fictional automobile-based time travel device featured in the film franchise was based on a DeLorean DMC-12 car and attendees could only glimpse into the driver and passenger seats.
For 3-year-old Owen Hoagland of Neptune, it wasn’t a truck he wanted to touch or even a life-sized car, but a miniature helicopter that was among the many toy vehicles at one of the vendor booths that caught his fancy. His grandmother, Joan Hoagland of Howell, tried to get him to decide which of the many toy vehicles he was pulling off the rack was his favorite as she was going to end up purchasing one of them.
“I saw it on Facebook and it looked like it would be a fun day for a 3-year-old,” Owen’s mother Lauren Hoagland said as she stood beside a stroller with Owen’s 1-year-old sister Caitlin who also appeared to be having a good time.
Judy Broomall, an employee of Sheltered Cove Marina, Tuckerton, was showing off a 2017 SeaFox boat that featured a price tag of $58,000 at the event. Like the other vehicles, family members got the chance to sit in the boat and pretend to navigate it in the nearby lake, even though it was safely stationed on the ground.
“This was our first time to be part of this and it is a lot of fun,” Broomall said.
This marked the second year that Tuckerton Lumber signed on as a sponsor for the event. Liz Harrigle and her brother Bruce Nelson own the company that their grandfather started in 1932.
“Kids ask a lot of questions and how our truck works. We brought a boom truck for people to sit in and learn about,” Harrigle said. “We deliver lumber in it but the boom can be used for multiple functions from moving a piano to a swimming pool.”
Rocco Manochio, president of the Stafford Chamber of Commerce, couldn’t have been happier about the turnout and weather for the day. He said that the event has drawn between 5-6,000 people in the past and today’s event may have topped that figure.
“We founded the chamber in 2014 and we were looking at what our first event would be. I have kids and I went to a Touch A Truck event in Monmouth County and I wanted to bring the idea here. We have 50 vendors here today along with as many vehicles and everyone is having a great time and that is what it is all about,” Manochio said.