DUNEDIN — Calling all kids: Honk your heart out and be king of the road at Dunedin's 11th annual Touch a Truck event.
Billed as the largest event of its kind in the southeastern United States and one of the largest in the country, the event will feature about 120 vehicles from government, nonprofit and commercial entities.
Event coordinator Mathew Eberius said about 15,000 people are expected to attend the Saturday event held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Highlander Park. The locale will be a sea of emergency and military vehicles as well as semitrailer trucks, construction equipment and boats.
"The kids love it — the fact that they get to honk the horns, play with lights and switches, turn on the sirens. It's something everyone wants to do," he said.
He attributed the growth of the event to the park setting, positive community feedback and the networking opportunities.
This year's event features a 20-ton Korean War tank called a Walker Bulldog, courtesy of the Armed Forces History Museum in Largo.
Coast Guard auxiliary boats will be on display, and the Tarpon Springs Police Department will showcase its Mobile Command Vehicle. Progress Energy will highlight the new Chevy Volt, an electric car. The Suncoast Safety Council will bring crash test dummies Vince and Larry, who will likely lose a limb or two in the interest of promoting safety.
There will be demonstrations by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office Dive Team as well as an extrication demo by Dunedin Fire Rescue.
Publix will display a food truck and have giveaways for children. Ronald McDonald is slated for a visit as well.
The event is free with a $2 parking fee. Proceeds go to the Dunedin for Youth Scholarship Fund, which helps low-income families participate in recreational programs. Additional parking is at Dunedin High School (1651 Pinehurst Road) with a free ride to and from the park on the Jolley Trolley shuttle.
The Department of Homeland Security will feature a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, a prototype for a generation of armored fighting machines used for defense against mines and improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"It weighs 16 tons and is about 12 feet tall and 24 feet long," said special agent Bill Williger, who works for the department. "This particular one is just a test vehicle; it never went overseas, but it is used for local emergency response."
Have a Diversions feature event? Contact Terri Bryce Reeves at firstname.lastname@example.org