Along with her husband and two young daughters, Margarita Burke attended her first Transportation Day, hosted by God’s Garden Preschool of Ahwatukee, last February.
This year, she chairs the Saturday, Feb. 24 event, which has continued to grow in size since it started in 2000 and has attracted hundreds from throughout Ahwatukee and surrounding environs.
Organizers say last year’s event brought thousands to the preschool grounds shared with Horizon Presbyterian Church on Liberty Lane.
“Last year I was absolutely blown away,” said Burke. “I really had no idea of the capacity of the event. It was absolutely incredible.”
With two daughters enrolled in God’s Garden Preschool, Burke said she was impressed enough with the scope and outreach of Transportation Day that she felt compelled to step up as this year’s chair.
“The school was really looking for someone to take the helm on this, and after a lot of contemplation and prayers, I volunteered,” the seven-year Ahwatukee resident said, adding:
‘There are a lot of different aspects to this event, and it’s definitely not a one-person endeavor. I have a wonderful team of about 10 people who are working with me to make this as successful as the last 17 years.”
Last year, using clicker counters at the entrance, organizers counted nearly 3,000 people who came to see the various modes of transportation, from ponies to helicopters, police cars to fire trucks, UPS trucks to construction vehicles, and even a Brinks armored truck and Big O race truck.
Many in the throng arrive right at the 9 a.m. start of the four-hour event so as not to miss one of the premier events – the landing of the Air Evac Services helicopter, expected this year around 9:30 a.m.
After landing, the Air Evac Services helicopter is, like all other vehicles displayed, ready to accept visitors who clamor aboard to see the interior and possibly don headsets for the perfect Transportation Day photo op.
This is the 10th year Air Evac Services has been a part of Transportation Day, beginning with Ahwatukee resident and AES pilot Tom Cotharin. He flew the “big yellow bird,” an AS-350 helicopter, for five years before becoming regional manager for the company.
“We’re part of the EMS community, and this is one way to show our appreciation of our friends and neighbors,” said Cotharin.
And as popular as the helicopter arrival, tours and departure are, there is a plethora of intriguing transportation vehicles to entertain and educate young and old alike.
Among the 40-plus vehicles on display and available for climbing aboard is a Valley Metro bus that children take turns pretending to drive, gleefully honking its horn and adding to the cacophony of other vehicle honkers.
All eyes fly skyward around 10:30 a.m., when four Stearman biplanes fly overhead in formation. The flyover is an anticipated moment annually, and the planes are flown by members of the Escadrille d’Lafayette of Arizona, based at Falcon Field in Mesa.
There’s plenty to do throughout the event with food trucks onsite, live music and a DJ, face painting by Phoenix Princess Company’s characters, balloon art by Zippy, an Ahwatukee resident and performer, boutique vendors and the perennial favorite – the gift basket raffle.
Displayed in the church social room, the scores of themed gift baskets inspire an intense interest with adults who often use the opportunity to remove themselves from the hubbub outdoors.
As Transportation Day is a rain-or-shine event, in past years the gift basket raffle room has also offered respite from downpours or blazing sun.
And once again, there are some very coveted baskets, including one valued at more than $1,200 for a weeklong get-away in a private four-bedroom, three-bath Flagstaff cabin.
“There’s literally all sorts of things for all sorts of people,” said committee member Brian Long, a seven-year Ahwatukee resident.
Looking over his list, he selected higher-priced items like golf foursomes at Foothills Golf Course and Chandler’s Springfield Resort, bicycles for adults and children, Lego baskets for girls and boys, another larger Lego basket valued at $150 and Star Wars Super Packages.
A spa day at Aji Spa at the Sheraton Grand at Wildhorse Pass is another tempting basket, along with area restaurant breakfast and dinner vouchers.
Tickets are $1 each or 6 for $5. They’re available at the church office, 1401 E. Liberty Lane, and the day of the event.
This year, 1,000 “loot bags” will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. They contain gifts and special offers from local businesses that are among the event sponsors.
One of the major sponsors is Chandler’s Freeway Chevrolet, which not only contribute but bring along some vehicles of interest to parents as well as their children.
“Freeway Chevrolet has been a proud sponsor of Transportation Day since 2015,” said Lisa Hopper, Inventory manager and sponsorships liason. “It’s a fun, educational family event, and we’ve been able to showcase some of our newest vehicle designs. This year we’re bringing the all-new 2018 Traverse and a 2018 Camaro.”
The three-car, trackless Desert Express Train is also returning to offer adults and children a trip around the grounds. Children 3 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
Notable this year is the parade of working vehicles a mere 50 feet from the Horizon Presbyterian Church and preschool grounds.
The giant earthmovers and belching dumptrucks roaring back and forth working on the 202 extension add a new dimension to this year’s Transportation Day, said Long.
As it did last year, Kyrene School District is donating a school bus to ferry families from the Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary School parking lot at 1122 E. Liberty Lane to the event site.
For more information see GodsGarden.com or the Gods Garden Preschool of Ahwatukee Transportation Day Facebook page.