Albie George Bowden stood in front of a truck tire taller than he is and ran his hands along the tread.
"Now I got dirty hands," the 4-year-old boy said before joining other children climbing inside the big olive-green Army-style vehicle.
Albie's close encounter with the big tire, try-ons of fire service air tanks for other children and a chance to work the controls of a real-life wrecker were among the highlights Thursday of a tradition carried on for years at a Key West preschool.
In preparation for the special day, children from 1 to 5 years old have been studying transportation for the past few weeks with their teachers.
Katie Catena, director of the Key West Preschool Co-op, a nonprofit institution tucked away on a little side street behind Flagler Avenue, said the annual "Truck Day" is a throwback to when schools throughout Key West offered children a chance to sit in, touch and gawk at various types of trucks that perform services in their community.
"We have this one day scheduled when we get trucks from all over," she said.
Other vehicles included a catering truck, an ATV and a police motorcycle, as well as a city bus.
A Police Department truck with trailer attached was also equipped with a horse named ICB, a big crowd-pleaser.
ICB warily munched hay on the lawn outside the school as groups of children gathered around, warned by teachers and parents not to startle him.
"I want to pet the horse," said 3-year-old Mavis Bishop.
ICB -- which stands for Ice Cold Beer, said Key West Police Officer Alberto DeVelasco -- is a thoroughbred gelding who gets along well with children of all ages. Asked if he enjoyed spending the morning showing off the horse and his trailer to schoolchildren, DeVelasco shrugged and smiled.
"Why not?" he said.
"I like the firetruck," said 4-year-old Alexi Jaferis, who along with classmates Kieran Smith and Brayden Stroud closely examined Key West Engine No. 5's side throttles and switches, used to control the flow of water into the truck and out to hoses.
At the tailgate of a Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority work truck, Shaun Niles told youngsters how water comes through a big pipe and through a meter on the way to their homes.
The children had no questions.
The big green truck that Albie and some of the other children found so fascinating is not generally engaged in public service, although it has been in some parades.
Its owner, construction contractor Mike McCoy, said he bought the American General 818 semi just for fun.
Its 250 horsepower Cummins diesel engine is powered by vegetable oil, he said.
After gazing at the truck's big instrument panel dials, Albie offered an opinion that caused several of the other children to nod in agreement.
"This is unreal," he said.