“He loves trucks,” said Cori Leontaris. “This is a perfect day for him. He knows every truck. He tells me what they’re called. I don’t know.”
Her 2-year-old son Nico was smiling widely as he climbed into an assortment of vehicles gathered in the Secaucus High School parking lot on Tuesday, Aug. 12.
“He has every truck book,” said Leontaris. “We were reading our truck books last night.”
The occasion was Truck Day, when the town gathers trucks of various sorts for kids to ogle and experience, with town employees and others explaining the ins and outs of the vehicles.
Nico’s favorite? “The digger!” he said enthusiastically.
The event is extremely popular with kids, who revel in getting up close to the big rigs, sitting in the driver’s seats, and asking questions.
“My son loves anything to do with wheels,” said Anubha Bhatla, who visited with 2-year-old Ranbir and his sister Simran, age 6. “We live right behind the Fire Department and if the door are open and the firefighters are there, he always wants to go in.”
“My son loves anything to do with wheels.” --Anubha Bhatla
Syden Azaceta was exactly 20 months old on Truck Day. “He loves trucks,” said Nicole Barletti, watching Syden play at the wheel of a backhoe. “He’s really, really into trucks.”
“He likes the fire trucks,” said dad Dan Azaceta. “He always imitates the sound.”
So that would be his favorite? “His favorite’s not here,” said Barletti. “It’s monster trucks.”
The life savers
“Kids always like fire trucks,” explained Secaucus Recreation Director John Voli. “Although they all like the backhoe too. They like beeping the horn. All day. I even put up the arm so they wouldn’t see it. They found it.”
Voli runs the various recreational events for the town, including the three summer camps: the day camp for 7- to 12-year-olds, the junior day camp for 5- and 6-year-olds, and the all-abilities camp, previously known as the special needs camp.
Kids from all three camps visited Truck Day to get their fill of the huge vehicles.
“I would have to say we had between 125 and 150 kids here at least,” said Officer Robert Napoleon, whose police car was swamped with fascinated youngsters. So what was their most common question for the policeman?
“A lot of kids ask what’s the worst thing you ever had to do. I tell them we have husbands and wives that fight, we have people that shoplift, we have car accidents. Things like that. I don’t tell them anything bad. I don’t want them traumatized.”
“Today there’s a lot of kids,” said Rosemberg Martinez, Supervisor of EMS for Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center. His EMS ambulance was constantly crowded with kids sitting in the back asking questions about everything in sight.
“Some kids get a little intimidated because they see a relationship between people getting hurt and dying in an ambulance,” he said. “They don’t want to go in. But you tell them we’re here to help people, make people better.”
Many activities for kids
An annual event in Secaucus since 2012, Truck Day was originally scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. this year but ended early at noon as dark clouds gathered overhead.
Last year the event was held in Laurel Hill Park, according to Martinez, and attendance wasn’t as strong. Bad weather may have had something to do with it. This year the town moved things to the school parking lot and publicized the event extensively in advance.
Marisa Brisson heard about it from her 5-year-old daughter Caz. “She goes to the art and craft camp in town, a camp for kids her age. And she got sent home with a flyer letting us know that today they’re going to have all these trucks out here. I asked her if she wanted to come. She said yeah.”
Geoffrey Miao, age 2, brought home a flyer as well. But his mom, Grace, already knew about the event from the town website and calendar. “The information now is better,” she said. “Before, even if they have some activity, we didn’t know. Secaucus has a lot of activities. Any activity that kids can get into, we like.”
Geoffrey’s 5-year-old sister Vivian wore a huge smile as she made her way across the lot wearing one of the plastic construction helmets given away to the kids.
“We’ve lived in Secaucus many years,” said Anubha Bhatla. “There wasn’t as much before. It’s the mayor. We had concerts and everything but now there’s so much for the kids.”
“It’s an opportunity because they never get to see what’s inside, the equipment,” said Preeti Vital about Truck Day. She attended with her son and daughter and her mom, Ruth Pereira. “He’s been talking about it. They heard about it at arts and crafts.”
“My brother wanted to see all the trucks,” said big sister Mika, age 5.
“I want to see the fire truck!” shouted 2-year-old Ethan, sporting an ear-to-ear grin.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.