Red, white and blue flooded the streets of downtown Bakersfield Monday morning.
As a 40-by-60-foot American flag was hoisted above the corner of H and 21st streets, the crowd went wild and people clapped and whistled while a distant chant of "Happy Veterans Day" was heard.
Looking around for an open spot where he could sit, 70-year-old Raul Gomez, wearing Army camouflage and a hat showing his service in Vietnam, found a spot across from the Bakersfield Fire Department's H Street station.
"This parade is very important because it helps us recognize those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe," the Army Vietnam veteran said.
Gomez has joined thousands of other locals at the parade since he was a kid. He would wake up early and head downtown with his family, a tradition he has seen many other local families keep.
Waving an American flag, Vicky Marmolejo's great-grandchild walked around anxiously, waiting for the two-hour parade to begin.
"When I'm no longer here, I want my kids and grandchildren to continue this tradition because it's an important day in our lives," 70-year-old Marmolejo said.
Standing next to her was her sonLeonard Marmolejo, 52, a retired Marine veteran. Leonard still remembers sitting on downtown curbs, watching the parade as a child. He said it's important to bring kids at a young age.
"They get to see how their community embraces veterans and they see the tribute and respect we pay to them," Leonard said.
To kick off the parade, local ROTC students holding military branch flags marched in formation down 21st Street. People cheered and clapped as military floats, classic cars, school bands and others made their way down the streets.
As the Honor Flight World War II veterans float made its way in front of the fire department, people stood and cheered extra loud for the veterans waving back.
The parade's smiles and cheers have been going on since 1919, when the first parade was put on by American Legion Post 26, said David Graham, business manager of the post.
This year, there were 128 entrees in the parade.
Graham said the parade committee had been meeting since January to plan the parade and the annual veterans breakfast that took place before just before the parade.
And this year 450 people were served breakfast. That's 150 more than last year.
"I actually had to tell people to give their seat to others if they were done with breakfast," Graham said. "But it's just an honor to serve those that did so much for this country."