Touch-A-Truck, Chalk Art Festival bring hundreds to downtown Topeka for a Saturday of food and fun

Downtown Topeka teemed with visitors Saturday, as families took part in multiple events designed to introduce kids to heavy machinery and the arts.

(C) India Yarborough A child, 3, pretends to steer a piece of machinery on display at Topeka’s eighth “Touch-A-Truck” event, which was held at Evergy Plaza this year for the first time.

The capital city’s downtown streets played host this weekend to Topeka’s 8th “Touch-A-Truck” event, which was held at Evergy Plaza for the first time, as well as the Chalk Art Festival, which was started about seven years ago by local artist and business owner Alexander Lancaster. According to Lancaster, Topeka’s Chalk Art Festival started with a few folks who would doodle on sidewalks when he placed chalk outside his business, Two Wolves Studio & Artist Den. That’s when Two Wolves was still located in the NOTO Arts & Entertainment District.

(C) India Yarborough A child, 8, draws a heart on the sidewalk outside Capitol Federal’s downtown location Saturday, as part of Topeka’s Chalk Art Festival, which coincided with the city’s “Touch-A-Truck” event.

“They’d walk by it and see it and start getting creative with it,” Lancaster said.

His studio moved downtown about fours years ago, shortly after amateur and professional artists set a chalk-festival record for most distance covered by local chalk art. “Our last record was 4,339 feet, which pretty much took up most of NOTO,” Lancaster said. “Being down here, we have more space, so we’re trying to get it going again.” Lancaster placed about a hundred buckets of chalk — which amounted to thousands of chalk pieces — in different spots throughout downtown, often alongside written messages of “Make Art.” And that’s what people did.

(C) India Yarborough The words “Make Art” are sketched on a downtown Topeka sidewalk Saturday next to a container of chalk. The organizer of Topeka’s Chalk Art Festival placed boxes of chalk throughout downtown to encourage folks to color and spread positivity.

Lancaster said he enjoyed seeing folks of all ages draw various designs and pen messages of hope, love and positivity.

“It’s also a spotlight on taking the simplest art supplies and handing it to a kid or somebody and watching them create,” he said. “I believe that art is healing for our community. Right now, more than ever, it’s really important for us to all heal.” And Lancaster hopes to continue the festival for years to come.

As for Saturday’s Touch-A-Truck event, organizer Zach Snethen, of HTK Architects, said it was exciting to be back downtown after a year off due to COVID-19. This year, Touch-A-Truck had close to 30 pieces of equipment, Snethen said. That amount was less than the event has had in recent years but more than what Touch-A-Truck started with in 2013.

(C) India Yarborough Mark Lopez, with Shawnee County Solid Waste, helps 13-year-old Michael Miller operate the trash-dump lever on a solid waste truck parked near Evergy Plaza.

“I’m happy with what all came out and who all’s here,” Snethen said. “The whole idea with this is to get kids exposed to either the design and construction industry or municipal service sectors.

The city’s got some equipment out here. … And then we’ve got a lot of construction-related pieces of equipment.” Machinery included excavators, construction lifts, fire trucks, a garbage truck and more.

The event also featured live music on Evergy Plaza’s stage, a face painting booth and several food vendors.

“It’s always nice to see people coming down, exploring downtown,” Snethen said. “It’s a good opportunity to do that.”

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Touch-A-Truck, Chalk Art Festival bring hundreds to downtown Topeka for a Saturday of food and fun

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