LAURINBURG — More than 300 third-graders on Friday started the school day with a climb on a tractor, a tour of a bookmobile or the wail of a fire-truck siren as part of an annual event that has come to be known simply as “truck day.”
“It’s become a great tradition,” said Tonia Stephenson, president of the Laurinburg/Scotland County area Chamber of Commerce. “It gives kids the opportunity to see different careers — kind of like a cool career day.”
The event, held in the visitor’s parking lot near the stadium of Scotland County High School, has been an annual one since 2008. It is organized by the Education Committee of the Scotland County Chamber of Commerce.
Eric Locklear, of the Laurinburg Streets Department, was one of several city employees who came out to let kids take a turn pushing and pulling the gears in a tractor with its power switch safely in the “off” position.
“It’s a learning experience for them,” said Locklear, who came to the city just a few weeks ago after spending five years trimming areas around power lines for Progress Energy.
Locklear understood the kids’ enthusiasm for the heavy equipment he drives all day. When he was a kid, he “loved (heavy machinery) to death.”
Tristen Harris, 8, said it was “pretty cool how they can move all that metal around and pick up stuff,” but 9-year-old Ivan Zheng was ready to go to work.
“I want to move that picker-upper,” he said of the large bucket attached to the front of Locklear’s vehicle.
Martha Sanders, a teacher at Washington Park Elementary, had her hands full of rambunctious children who were loaded up on excitement as well as free candy given away at some of the learning stations.
“It lets kids know about different opportunities,” she said, “to encourage them to stay in school and what is out there for them if they do.”
Emergency personnel also showed off their equipment, from police vans to rescue trucks to the hit of the event, a city fire truck with an extended ladder and a loud shriek that scattered nearby kids every time it sounded.
“When I was growing up, they didn’t have stuff like this,” said Lt. Don Flowers, of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, who works as a resource officer at Carver Middle School. “It’s great to give them exposure to things going on in the county … . It also allows them to interact with us more, and lets them know we’re here to protect them.”