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Families flock to Niantic to ‘touch a truck’ — or two, or 12

October 13, 2018

Niantic — It’s not every day Mike Auperin witnesses his son in a police cruiser.

“This better be the last time,” said Auperin of Deep River, grinning toward his 3-year-old, Ian, who pounced on the horn and siren with gusto.

The Auperins were just one of several families braving a chilly, drizzly morning at McCook Point Park in Niantic on Saturday for the 11th annual Touch-A-Truck event, featuring a mix of fun and public safety training.

But “touch” doesn’t do it justice, with kids hopping into a U.S. Army National Guard light medium tactical vehicle, exploring the cuddy in a U.S. Coast Guard boat, checking out a historic Yellow Cab car, climbing into an ambulance and lying in a stretcher, and honking horns of septic, oil, tree service and construction trucks perched within view of Niantic Bay.

“The kids are having a blast,” East Lyme Police Officer Donald Hull said. “When there’s a bit of a chill, there are no lines. Everybody gets to hop right on. They like getting in the back, figuring out that you can’t get out, tricking their siblings.”

The event included a horn-free hour to accommodate younger and noise-sensitive children; after that, Hull’s siren and horn could be heard every few moments throughout the park, followed by laughs as children tried out the loudspeaker, some shouting “Police. Pull over.”

The East Lyme Auxiliary of Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut and the East Lyme Parks and Recreation Department co-sponsored the event, which drew a sizable crowd despite the wet weather.

“People were lined up at quarter to 9 a.m.,” said Terry Merola of the East Lyme Auxiliary of Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, who, along with volunteer Kay Whritner, took donations and handed out firefighter helmets to youngsters. Proceeds will benefit the work of the agency, which helps more than 17,000 children and families in area communities.

The Mystic Smoke House truck was on hand and staffed by the Junior Firefighters of Niantic Fire Department. With assistance from Niantic Fire Chief Steve Wargo, the event featured a pumper carrying both water and hoses.

In addition to trucks, families munched on hot dogs, hamburgers and ice cream and enjoyed crafts, face painting, balloon animals and rides on a smiling, tooting Roaming Railroad.

Kim Colucci of Waterford brought her two young sons Preston and Thomas, saying she loved “family events like this. And I was glad to find out it was rain-or-shine.”

b.kail@theday.com

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