After 40 years appearing at the NOR Children's Christmas Parade, Santa will set a new tradition, breaking bread with parade-goers. And it's only through holiday magic that the jolly old elf will be able to appear at the breakfast event and the parade in Oildale on Saturday morning.
The decision to add the event at the North of the River Veterans Hall was an easy choice according to Lisa Walker, NOR recreation supervisor, who is in charge of this year's parade.
"They (VFW Post 10859) have been doing one at Greenacres Community Center for 20 years," she said. "They asked if we would like one over here since they are now meeting over here. It's a great opportunity for the community."
For $5 (free for children 2 and under), the meal includes pancakes, sausage and choice of beverage (orange juice, coffee or milk). There will be placemats for the kids to color, and a photo opportunity with Santa -- don't forget your camera!
Walker said the event's extended hours should make it possible for most parade participants to attend, whether before or after.
"The parade is not usually that long. We try to keep it really quick, way less than an hour."
Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard will serve as the parade's grand marshal. KERO-TV Channel 23's Mike Hart is this year's emcee, stepping in for longtime announcer Doug DeRoo, with whom he teamed last year.
Roger Perez, former NOR marketing director who is now the executive director at the Kern County Museum, said in an interview Tuesday that he was reticent to ask DeRoo to volunteer again for a nonpaying assignment.
DeRoo confirmed he hadn't been contacted, but that he'll be at the parade, which he has been part of since 1983.
"I'll be at Zorba's at 8:30 if anybody needs me. I always show up at Zorba's and eat pancakes on parade day."
DeRoo said the formula for the parade, which features no motorized vehicles, is simple:
"You can count on Country Canines (a dog drill team) and Helene's Dance Academy. That's the beauty of that parade. The recipe for it is kids, dogs and goats."
Animal groups and child performers are well-represented in the 60 groups set to march. About 2,000 people will take part, including marching bands, dance troupes, ropers, BMX riders and roller derby skaters.
"We have several dog groups, lots of horses. KC the Bull -- he encourages everybody. There will probably be more surprises; I haven't finished reading over all the entries yet."
Having volunteered for 12 years and directing for three years, Walker said the parade runs smoothly thanks to all the work behind the scenes from a mix of 32 volunteers and staffers.
"It's a huge ordeal. It takes a lot of volunteers and paid staff -- people signing them in, people to line them up, making sure you get everybody in the right order."
Coffee cart Rolling Bean will be on hand making coffee drinks at the parade staging area at North High for participants and attendees.
After four decades, the Oildale event continues to be a big draw among residents.
"It has a small-town appeal," Walker said. "It's the cutest parade on the planet."
DeRoo concurred, describing it as "really, truly homespun."
"It gives you a sense that Oildale is a community. The one thing they do best all year."