Five-year-old Ethan Skinner of Santa Rosa had only one thing on his mind Sunday afternoon at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds during the second annual Ride-A-Rig fundraiser.
The event, sponsored by the Junior League of Napa-Sonoma, allowed local children a chance to hop inside the large vehicles and aircraft that are typical standard pieces of their toys at home.
He wasn’t distracted by the REACH helicopter that flew above the fairgrounds and landed to a rush of families looking to poke their heads inside the aircraft. Nor was he swayed by the ice cream truck sponsored by Umpqua Bank.
For him, the main attraction was the firetruck from the Bennett Valley Fire District, whose siren went off constantly throughout the afternoon as kids flipped on its switch.
“It’s because I want to be a fireman,” Skinner said. His 2-year-old sister, Lucy, was more partial to the ice cream truck, however.
Hundreds of families turned out for the event, which featured a low admission of $5.50 per person. Proceeds will go to the nonprofit Junior League of Napa-Sonoma charitable giving arm, whose beneficiaries include the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County and the Sonoma County Human Trafficking Task Force.
“It’s a great way for families to meet the people in their community,” said Katie Behrhorst, president of the Junior League.
“They get to meet their police officer. They get to meet their garbage man and see the helicopter up close.”
It also served as a great way for the children to tire themselves out if the nearby inflatable bounce house and obstacle course didn’t do the trick.
Kevin Osmundsen, 4, of Santa Rosa, got to press a button that lifted the back of a trash hauler, spilling out empty cardboard boxes onto the ground.
Osmundsen later raced to the rear of the truck and started throwing the boxes back onto the cargo bed once it became level again. “It’s so awesome,” he said.
His mother, Collette, said the trucks “were like a little magnet” to the children.
Girls especially gravitated to two truck cabs, one painted bright pink and another with a polka-dot pattern.
“Little girls have been all up in everything in (the cab). The little girls love it,” said Delta Beaston, a truck driver for S S Skikos Trucking of Santa Rosa.
“The girls, I think, are braver than the boys at this point. I think it’s because of the color.”
George Moreno of San Rafael brought his three children to the event and said they especially enjoyed seeing the police cruisers from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office and the CHP.
Moreno said he appreciated the how the event provided his kids a better understanding of police work.
“I think being able to have the meet and greet … especially at a young age, and being able to have them interact (with them) helps build a future,” Moreno said.
In fact, Behrhorst said the impressions made Sunday could possibly last a lifetime.
“You never know what little child will say, ‘Today, I want to be in the Highway Patrol,’” she said.
You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 707-521-5223 or email@example.com.