The Christmas spirit was palpable in downtown Bakersfield on Thursday night, and it was barely dampened by the rain that drizzled down as marching bands roared, decorated trucks rolled and people paraded down the street.
"I wish the weather was better, but the kids love it," said Debbie Armenta, who was holding her 3-year-old daughter Amiyah.
The 30th annual Bakersfield Christmas Parade looped around downtown streets Thursday night to usher in Christmas with the theme of "An American Christmas."
Junior high and high school marching bands played renditions of "Jingle Bells." Various school districts dressed their buses up with decorations of Frosty the Snowman, Disney characters or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The Kern County and Bakersfield fire department strung Christmas lights from their trucks. And of course, there was Santa Claus.
Armenta and her family were at the parade for the first time. Much like other spectators, the family got in the Christmas spirit with Santa hats. Amiyah was in her Minnie Mouse Santa hat, a Christmas present from Disneyland.
Armenta said she enjoyed the marching bands the most, calling out Stockdale High School's as particularly entertaining.
As the Bike Bakersfield bunch road by on their bicycles, some in Santa hats, some with antlers and others with tiny trees in their baskets, Armenta commented, "That's cute."
When the Coca-Cola polar bear dressed as Santa walked by, children went wild. Some families lined up to snap a picture with the bear.
Seven-year-old Michael Rubio was one of the children who made sure to get a picture with the polar bear. A family friend, Alice Escobedo, said Michael's family has been coming to the parade since he was born. But this was the first time Michael was excited enough to stay awake.
When asked if he was excited to see Santa later in the night, Michael got nervous and said, "I didn't mail a letter to Santa." But his mother, Frances Rubio, reminded him he had, adding that he was on Santa's "Nice" list.
Helena Young and Geoffrey Louder made their way to the Christmas parade with their four children for the first time this year. They just moved from a small town in Colorado, though they previously lived in Bakersfield in 2005 and 2006.
But even though they were new to the Bakersfield parade, they went to parades in Colorado. Bakersfield's was better, they said. One reason was larger floats, Louder said.
"I like the marching bands, the kids like Santa, and we all like the floats," Young said.
Kayley Price said she was excited to see her 4-year-old son Levi make his debut in the parade. He was in the float with his school, Bethel Christian School.
"Mom, I'm super duper excited," Price said Levi told her before the parade.
This is Price's family's third time at the parade. They have made a tradition out of getting a pizza at Jerry's Pizza and Pub and eating it while watching the parade.
"I think it's fun for the kids to see the lights and the people on horses," Price said, "and to come out as a community."