DANBURY, Conn. — Luke’s Toy Factory pulled out the stops to kick off the Christmas shopping season by giving away a free toy fire truck to a lucky child — with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal on hand to pick the winner.
Blumenthal (D-Conn.) arrived at Luke’s Toy Factory on 128 E. Liberty St. in Danbury on Wednesday morning to do the honors.
For the past few months, the 2-year-old toy manufacturer -- which creates toy trucks for children age 3 and up -- has been giving away a free truck once a week through a random drawing.
Hopeful winners signed up online on the company's website, and the names were printed out on pieces of paper and put in a large box for a fun drawing.
Luke’s Toy Factory had already given away 10 toys, according to Newtown resident Jim Barber, who owns the business with his wife, Lois Barber. The couple’s son, Luke, is toy designer.
“I am really honored as a parent as well as a United States senator to be here and to chose the winner of one of these wonderful toys,” Blumenthal said, reaching his hand into the box, with over 600 names.
When he looked at the slip, the senator announced with a smile, “The winner is Richard Blumenthal” before reading the name of the actual winner.
After the drawing, Blumenthal learned from the Barbers how the toy trucks are made.
Luke’s Toy Factory creates four different kinds of trucks: a fire truck, dump truck, cargo truck and tipper truck. Children can mix and match the parts of each to create their own vehicles.
Each truck is made from a wood plastic composite, which is 70 percent plastic and 30 percent reclaimed sawdust.
“Instead of incinerating the sawdust, we are giving a second life to them in our toys,” said Evan Archiron, a co-founder who is in charge of business strategy at Luke’s Toy Factory.
Luke Barber designs the trucks on a computer. With a three-dimensional printer, he makes a prototype to test the parts for fit and function so kids can test them out.
When designing the trucks, Jim Barber said, “There’s an age where a kid outgrows a baby toy so Luke looked at regular trucks and took some design elements of them and incorporated them in that."
Each trucks is also a three-dimensional puzzle. "Once the children finish putting the puzzle together, they have a toy they can play with," Jim Barber said.
Luke’s toys are unlike many others where parts must fit together exactly. “At age 3, kids don’t have perfect eye-hand coordination so we built a little bit of wiggle room in them so that they don’t have to fit perfectly,” Jim Barber said.
Every component and tool used in the production of Luke’s toys is manufactured in the United States.
“One of the reasons we did this is to show that it could be done, to try to bring manufacturing back to the U.S.,” Jim Barber said.
The trucks sell for $22.95 each and are available in 200 stores around the United States and in a half-dozen stores in Connecticut.