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<i>Submitted photo</i> "Are you ready to sit in the driver's seat of a large dump truck, cement truck, road grader or 170-ton mobile crane? Or get behind the flight controls of a C-140 Air Force military transport plane or captain a Huey Army helicopter" asks Joe Covelli, who at his wife's urging founded the Touch-A-Truck for Kids event.

Big machines make for big fun

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"Are you ready to sit in the driver's seat of a large dump truck, cement truck, road grader or 170-ton mobile crane? Or get behind the flight controls of a C-140 Air Force military transport plane or captain a Huey Army helicopter" asks Joe Covelli, who at his wife's urging founded the Touch-A-Truck for Kids event. Since its start in 2004 -- and held every other year since -- Touch-A-Truck's reputation and turnout has expanded. This year it will include at least 50 machines.

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"The very first one, we had maybe 500 attending," said Covelli, who lives in the town of River Falls. "Then in 2006, we had about 1,500, and the last time, in 2008, we estimated the turnout at between 2,500 and 3,000. I honestly don't know what to expect this time."

This year's Touch-A-Truck will go from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 19, in the north parking lot of Meyer Middle School, 230 N. Ninth St.

It's free, but those attending are asked to bring a nonperishable food item for the River Falls Food Pantry.

Covelli said kids ages 2-10 are the target group for Touch-A-Truck, but added, "I've seen lots of big kids, including adults, who get into it just as much."

Aside from the big machinery, other Touch-A-Truck highlights:

  • The first 400 eight-year-olds attending will get a plastic yellow hard hat from River Falls Municipal Utilities.
  • The River Falls Fire Department will staff a brat stand for food and beverage sales. Proceeds go toward RFFD's 125th anniversary celebration in September.
  • The River Falls Royal Ambassadors and their float will be there. Take three slides down the 14-foot Lil' Pumper Fire Truck for $2 to benefit the ambassadors' program.
  • A mobile MRI scanner that shows body images.
  • An old-fashioned ice cream truck with a side window selling goodies and treats.
  • A crashed car on loan from the sheriff's department to be used during a safe-driving campaign for older teenagers.

Also, the River Falls Municipal Utilities will bring a power-line truck; the city's Public Works will feature a motor grader and a snowplow truck; and the fire department will have a 100-foot aerial fire engine.

River Falls-based F&K Excavating will have a bulldozer and other construction equipment to showcase.

While his kids, including son Jonathan, aren't so little anymore, Covelli remains the coordinator for Touch-A-Truck.

"It takes me more than 200 hours each time to pull this all together," he said. "But the event has really taken hold. It's so established and recognized that I really don't have to sell it because people have heard of it or been to the others."

For more information and to see the most current list of trucks and vehicles to be shown, go to www.Touch-A-Truck.us.

Read more about this story in the June 10 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

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Phil Pfuehler
Phil Pfuehler has been editor of the River Falls Journal since 1991.
(715) 426-1050
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