SENECA FALLS — Many students at St. John Bosco School found it hard to concentrate on their schoolwork on May 26 because they were excited about the large trucks and pieces of construction equipment parked in the school’s parking lot. Seneca Falls residents who live near the school probably also had a hard time concentrating that day, albeit for a slightly different reason.
That day, Bill and Annette Lutz brought three tractor-trailer trucks, a dump truck, tractor, fork lift, backhoe, bulldozer and excavator to the parking lot for the school’s first-annual Big Truck Day.
“People get to climb all over the equipment and blow the horn, which is a favorite part — probably not for the neighbors — but for everyone else,” said Mary Caffrey, principal.
Big Truck Day actually began last year at the former St. Patrick School in Seneca Falls, and St. John Bosco officials decided to adopt the tradition and make it their own, Caffrey said.
St. John Bosco School was formed this school year when St. Patrick’s merged with St. Mary’s School in Waterloo, and officials at the new school have worked very hard to incorporate traditions from each of the former schools, she added.
“We’re doing these things to keep good on our promise of trying to hold onto things that were very important to both communities,” Caffrey said. “We try to carry on the best and the most fun things from each place.”
Although Big Truck Day dawned gray and rainy, the weather didn’t appear to dampen the students’ spirits. On the contrary, several children seemed to think the dreary weather made the day even more fun, since they also could jump in puddles as they ran from truck to truck.
As Caffrey predicted, the students were enamored with the truck horns, particularly an air horn in the cab of one tractor-trailer truck. Preschooler Damon Fletcher, 4, said honking the horns in each truck and piece of equipment was exciting because he’d never honked a horn before that day.
“I like them because they’re loud,” he said.
Although Damon was disappointed when Annette Lutz told him the backhoe he was sitting in did not have a horn, his spirits soon rose considerably. When she lifted him out of the driver’s seat, he ran around to the rear of the backhoe to examine the machine’s scooping bucket.
“I can fit in the shovel!” he exclaimed excitedly as he climbed inside.
After showing the preschoolers one last piece of equipment, Annette Lutz escorted them back into the school, where another group of students was patiently waiting its turn. In the meantime, Bill Lutz took advantage of the brief quiet to tell the Catholic Courier a little more about his equipment.
Bill Lutz and his father own two companies — Waterloo Construction and Waterloo Containers — and most of the construction equipment belongs to Waterloo Construction. The tractor-trailer trucks belong to Waterloo Containers, which ships wine bottles to 1,700 wineries throughout the nation, he said.
Each truck and piece of equipment — with the exception of a 1957 Ford tractor — was less than 4 years old, he added. The fork lift, backhoe, bulldozer, tractor and excavator were brought over to the school parking lot on trailers, and the rest of the equipment was driven to the school the night before Big Truck Day.
“It takes us a couple of hours to move everything in,” Bill Lutz said.
The Lutzes don’t mind spending extra time transporting the equipment to the school because the students — including their three daughters — enjoy Big Truck Day so much.
“The kids get a big kick out of it. Some of them have never seen this kind of equipment before,” Bill said.
When they brought their equipment to St. Patrick’s last year, the students honked the horns so enthusiastically that one neighbor called the police, he recalled. The police officers drove by but apparently thought the disturbance was harmless, because they didn’t ask the students to be quiet, he added.
Moments later, Annette Lutz emerged from the school with a group of second-graders, including the couple’s daughter Victoria, who waved frantically at her father while hopping with excitement.
“Are you ready, Mr. Lutz?” Annette called from the school’s front steps, where she’d gathered the students.
With that, Bill strode over to the excavator, donned a hard hat and climbed up into the cab. He took the controls and the excavator’s engine grumbled to life. He raised the excavator’s bucket high in the air and swung it around to face the children, flexing the tooth-lined jaws of the bucket before swinging it around and narrowly missing the top of a nearby basketball hoop, much to the students’ delight.
The students appeared to enjoy the excavator demonstration almost as much as they enjoyed playing in an empty tractor-trailer the Lutzes brought to the school. Apparently — unbeknownst to adults — there’s some sort of natural rule that requires children, whenever given the opportunity, to run up and down the length of an empty, 53-foot trailer while screaming as loud as humanly possible.
“It’s fun to hear yourself echo,” explained second-grader Hannah Miller.
The appeal of running through the trailer seems to wear off as children get older, however.
“When we get to the bigger kids they start asking more technical questions,” Annette Lutz noted.