AMMON — As Makayla Welch approached the front of the line Saturday, her eyes betrayed the nervousness she was feeling.
But the 11-year-old was not about to miss a chance to ride on the Ammon Fire Department’s new ladder truck. The truck, acquired only a month ago, was making its first-ever appearance at the city’s annual Ammon Days celebration — a daylong community festival that features all sorts of free amenities.
Makayla was accompanied by her 8-year-old sister, Addison, and mom Paulette Welch, who had decided to remain earthbound while her daughters soared into the stratosphere — an estimated 80 feet above the ground.
Before climbing into the enclosed rectangular platform affixed to the end of the ladder, Makayla looked back at her mother and said, “I love you mom.”
Mom smiled her best reassuring smile in return.
A giggling Addison, meanwhile, gave her mom the “thumbs up” sign. The girl might have jumped right out of her skin had it not been for the safety belt that a firefighter was wrapping around her mid-section.
In less than two hours Saturday, Ammon Fire Capt. Frank Seward estimated that more than 200 boys and girls and moms and dads and all sorts of other folks had climbed aboard the ladder for the thrill of rising 80 feet above McCowin Park.
“It’s been way cool,” Seward said.
It was anything but cool where Ray Ellis was standing.
The Ammon Public Works director was running the kitchen where the barbecue was well underway. Ellis and his 12-member Public Works crew volunteered to grill the hamburgers and hot dogs, steam hundreds of ears of corn and cook gallons of baked beans to perfection.
By day’s end, Ellis figured his crew would feed some 3,500 hungry festival-goers.
“I’m the chief cook and bottle washer,” Ellis said. “We got started at six this morning and by the time we finish cleaning up it will be eight or nine.”
But Ellis wasn’t complaining.
“It’s fun working with these guys in a different capacity,” he said.
Hundreds of people were lined up to take advantage of the free fare, including Scott and Melonie Larson and their three children. The Ammon family was attending its first Ammon Days celebration. Only two of the couple’s three children were waiting in the food line with their parents, but no one seemed worried.
“It’s nice to feel safe (and) let the kids run around,” Scott Larson said.
After lunch, Larson said the family planned to take a ride on the Fire Department’s ladder — the same ladder that now held Makayla and her sister, Addison, high above the park.
After a minute or two, the girls began their descent. It was difficult to tell which one sported the biggest grin.
“It was an adventure. It was awesome,” Addison said.
Makayla admitted to a little nervous as the platform lifted her and her sister into the air.
“When you first start going up, you get a little tickle (in your stomach),” she said. “Then it was all right.”
So, would she do it again?
The girl answered without hesitation. “Yeah.”
Assistant City Editor Mike Mooney can be reached at 542-6764.