As the parents of two young children, my wife and I are constantly trying to find things to do outside of the house. Lego Duplo, puzzles, and coloring books are great, but feeling, touching, and experiencing the actual world are even better.
We go to a lot of child-friendly events. Luckily, Brno is fantastic for that.
My son is a fanatic for all vehicles that have flashing lights. Police cars, fork lifts, excavators — whatever, if there is a flashing light, it is worth watching. He calls them “huhuláks,” which is an adaptation of the Czech word for the sound a siren makes.
Construction equipment is particularly exciting. The fact that Brno is currently under construction is a big plus for my wife, who, for many hours, has stood patiently on sidewalks as my son, transfixed by the dump trucks, graters and roller trucks, watches from the baby carriage.
Fire engines are an especially big interest. Unfortunately, we never seem to be able to get close to one. Twice, now, we have been burned:
1st: Moravský Krumlov
Last year, there was an open house for fire stations throughout the region. I thought, why not go to a small town so that we can explore a new place, avoid the crowds and probably get personal attention. We decided to go to Moravský Krumlov.
The town, about half an hour south of Brno, was quaint and quiet on the late Saturday morning. We found the fire station on a side street. It, too, looked sleepy. When we got into the driveway, one of the garage doors opened. Perfect, I thought. They must be happy to have customers.
A fireman inside the garage saw us. He put a finger up as if to say “wait, one minute”. The fire engine behind him roared to life and its lights started flashing.
We took a position at the far edge of the driveway. They were bringing out a fire engine just for us! My son’s face light up. What a fantastic show!
The fire engine slowly pulled out of the garage. But, the fire engine did not stop just outside of the garage door. Neither did it stop after turning its side to us. Rather, it continued, slowly, out into the public street and disappeared slowly around the corner. The sirens were not on. Clearly, there was no emergency.
Then the garage door closed.
The four of us — my son in the baby carriage, me squatting next to him, my daughter holding my wife’s hand — were frozen in our positions as the silence of the small-town Saturday descended upon the scene.
(We later found out that Moravský Krumlov had a festival that morning. Perhaps the fire engine was on display there.)
2nd: Brno Airport
The Airport had a great children’s event earlier this year. There were dozens of stands with kid-interesting displays, games and ice cream. There were also helicopters, planes, and jets flying around. It was hot and there were a lot of people, but parking was easy, the entrance was free, and there was a lot of space to move around.
The highlight that really drew us to the event was the fireman demonstration at 2 p.m. There was to be a car on fire and firemen were to roar to the scene to save the day. I overheard people talking about it from when we arrived at 10 a.m. Surely it would be popular.
We went to the location 10 minutes early and found a front-row space with a perfect view of the soon-to-be-destroyed car. My children’s friends and their grandparents were to one side and a colleague and his family were to the other.
Two p.m. came. And went. Nothing happened. The children, foregoing afternoon naps, were getting rambunctious within the confines of the crowd. Another 10 minutes passed. Then 15, then 20. My acquaintances on both sides gave up and left. Finally, 30 minutes late, a guy dressed in fireman overalls showed up, walked to the car, leaned against it and called someone on his mobile phone. The children got even more antsy.
Finally, after another 10 minutes, a few smoke bombs started the show. Three fire vehicles came roaring down the runway with sirens blaring in a dramatic entrance that was, probably, worth the wait.
The main fire engine stopped perpendicular to the smoking car. The water truck stayed toward the back. Then, the support vehicle pulled in front of the crowd, completely obscuring our view. Of course, it did. (After much yelling and the prodding, the car moved.)
Over the next 10 minutes, we watched firemen slowly go through the motions. The smoking car was slowly sprayed with water. The doors, on the far side, were slowly removed and placed on the hood.
Finally, in an actual dramatic flourish, the water truck sprayed water from 10 meters away. Many in the crowd had, by then, already gone away.
I don’t want to complain too much. It is not easy to produce kid-friendly events. I am sure that, despite being left hanging in Moravský Krumlov and despite enduring a long delay and the adult-point-of-view lameness at the Brno Airport, my son enjoyed the flashing lights and probably developed a cherished memory of firemen and fire vehicles.
That is, after all, what matters.