Under a cloudless May sky the first ever Touch- A-Truck and Muster event was held on Saturday at West Running Brook Middle School in Derry.
Nearly everyone was in a great mood as kids of all ages gathered to see, touch, and explore firetrucks, ambulances, police vehicles, and many kinds of heavy equipment used by the fire and police departments. A medical transport helicopter from Dartmouth Hitchcock even landed in the school’s soccer field.
Turnout was so large that volunteers from CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) directed traffic in the additional parking lots, and school buses from First Student Bus Company were used to shuttle families to and from West Running Brook. Derry residents and CERT volunteers at Derry Village School, Michelle Donavan and Chris Hutchinson, noted that even the simple school bus ride was a big thrill for the children who don’t yet attend school.
Lieutenant Beattie of the Derry Police Department showed children the large multi-prisoner transport van while parents joked with their kids that they expect this to be the only time they see the inside of that vehicle. Captain Feole of the DPD was there to answer questions about the Southern New Hampshire Special Operations Unit armored Bear Cat vehicle. Questions about the vehicle ranged from the specific modifications made at the factory to what the small windows are for (they are gun ports) to the weight of the Bear Cat vehicle. People of all ages were invited to try on the heavy protective clothing that the nine community SNH Special Operations Unit wears. Throughout the day, numerous youngsters told Captain Feole that they would like to be police officers one day, too.
For aspiring truck drivers, an eighteen-wheeler from New England Tractor Trailer Training School in North Andover, Massachusetts was on site. Armand Dion and David Monroe from Rymes Oil encouraged kids to climb up into the cab of their oil delivery truck and blast the horn. Their special pink truck, the Ms. Wendy, showed the company’s commitment to fighting breast cancer.
TreelineNH brought their massive tree cutting equipment, Derry Cable Television was on site with their news truck, Eversourse was represented with a bucket loader truck, and The Derry Highway and Public Works was there with many of their vehicles. Representatives from the Derry Recreation Department and Derry Public Library were on hand to tell families about the summer programs both organizations have planned.
According to young James Rountree and his younger sister, Gabby, of Derry, the Muster portion of the event was “Really fun” and he liked getting wet with the hose he had to carry in the obstacle course. James said “The hose wasn’t too heavy,” and Gabby liked shooting water into the targets.
They came with their parents Tracy and James Rountree, who said they would recommend the events to other kids. Echoing a sentiment heard throughout the day, the family says they look forward to coming back next year.
As the day ended, Derry Fire Chief Michael Gagnon was helping to hold down a sun shelter to keep it from being blown away by the departing Dartmouth Hitchcock helicopter.
He said the event, which was spearheaded by Derry Fire Department Assistant Chief Scott Jackson and Lieutenant Michael La Valley, was a great success. There were, at times, lines thirty kids deep waiting for the muster event. His preliminary estimate of the attendance throughout the day was‚ “in the thousands.” He hopes to make this an annual event, news that will surely be welcomed by countless kids and their families in town.
The event was the result of cooperation between local town agencies and departments; the Derry Fire and Police Departments, The Highway and Public Works Departments, Derry Cooperative School District, First Student Bus Company, The Derry Parks and Recreation Department, both Derry Public Libraries and the Derry Parent Teacher Association and numerous local businesses who generously donated their time and equipment to the event.