Seasons come and go, fads and fashions change, but history tells us you can always count on a parade (or two) through the streets of Bakersfield.
In 1933, Bakersfield hosted one of its first whimsical parades. No big fancy floats or marching bands, the Pet Parade was exclusively for the children of Kern County and their furry pals.
On Feb. 11, 1933, a cool and misty Saturday, the parade started promptly at 9 a.m. down Chester Avenue. The crowd was treated to a showing of more than 500 of “Bakersfield’s pet cats and dogs tricked out in the latest spring furs and pink ribbons.”
As the children and their pets traveled down 19th Street with leashes and wagons, they proudly passed the judges’ table. The day’s winners were awarded with silver trophies and cases of pet food. The inaugural winners included John Hayes, A. Monroe, Dan Dewey, June Carval, Jack Levi, Eleanor Shomate, Dorothy Dillon, Pat Asema, John Stevens, Robert Thomas, June Cassady, Margaret Wittig, Anna Marie Harpster, Robert Letterman, Gerald Wilmet and Oliver Rothery.
After all of the prizes were awarded and the pets were placed under the watchful eyes of the Boy Scouts, the human participants were treated to a movie at the Fox Theater. The Feb. 11, 1933, Bakersfield Californian recounted that just before the show, “the hundreds of children who thronged the theater stood with bowed heads for a moment while a bugler sounded taps in memory of that prince of dogs, Rin Tin Tin.”
Not a single fight occurred between the supposed sworn feline and canine enemies that day – a fact that remained true for future pet parades as well. It seemed as though the children’s faithful companions all graduated from the best obedience school around.
On April 11, 1936, The Californian praised the patience of a little bulldog as he awaited the start of the parade and “sat quietly in his blue overalls, red shirt, with spectacles and a straw hat, and a corn cob pipe in one corner of his mouth. When petted, he wagged his tail and wiggled his hips but he never allowed that corn cob to drop.”
Unique pets joined the celebration after that first year as they marched alongside Kern’s cats and dogs. Ordinary domestic animals shared the spotlight with throngs of geese, chickens, ponies, rabbits, parrots, turtles and even a couple of possums and an alligator!
In 1934, the prize for the most unique pet went to Laurena Rohn and her cockroach. The 1937 award winner was Anita Baker, who captured the eyes of the judges and the crowd with her tiny catfish that The Bakersfield Californian proudly proclaimed “was a hometown catfish, too, born in the Kern River.”
For the next few years, the number of participants grew to more than 600 children, a thousand pets and spectators estimated in excess of 10,000. The Pet Parade was a celebration to be remembered as a chance to give all children, dogs and cats their day. ￼