For last year's first national Women's March, Kimberly Kirchmer arranged for buses to take people from Bakersfield to the march in Los Angeles, where around 750,000 people took to the streets for women's rights. When she asked L.A. organizers if she could arrange another caravan for this year's march, she was told no.
Kern County should have its own, they told her.
"It was all about empowering Bakersfield," Kirchmer said. "We're big enough to have our own. They were kind of joking about not (letting us come), but they wanted to let each community empower (itself). They have been extremely supportive."
So, for the second national Women's March, to be held in more than 250 U.S. cities on Jan. 20 and 21, Kern County will have its own official presence, with a family-friendly march starting and ending in Central Park on Jan. 20.
Representatives from local organizations like the Alliance Against Family Violence, the Apple Core Project and Planned Parenthood will be there to help people turn marching into action and change. About 20 speakers from different backgrounds will give short speeches to inspire the crowd. All speakers will be women, Kirchmer said.
"(People ask) 'What about men?' We want all the allies we can get, but we're going to feature the voices of women from the stage," she said.
Kirchmer and other organizers worked with those in the Women's March Los Angeles Foundation, which is associated with the Women's March California, to put the local march together in less than two months. Planning started in early December, securing a location and a permit within a few weeks, with details such as speakers, still being finalized a couple weeks before the march.
"I was a naysayer," said Robin Walters, one of the organizers. "Three or four weeks ago, (Kimberly) said we need to get this going. I thought 'No way, there's not enough time,' and lo and behold, in a week she had convinced me."
To cover costs of the march, organizers asked supporters to help them raise money. The first 30 people to give $100 would be considered founders, and Kirchmer and other organizers got that within a couple days. Any money raised at the local march will go back to Kern County.
One focus of the march will be getting people registered to vote and encouraging people to get to the polls, particularly in mid-term elections that tend to see lower turnout. "Power to the Polls" is also the official theme of the national march, happening on Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.
Jessica Flores, another organizer of the local march, said she felt like she had to go to L.A. last year because, she felt at the time, she was essentially alone with her beliefs in Bakersfield. But going to the march on the buses out of Bakersfield, she realized the town wasn't as conservative as she'd previously believed.
"There was so much already here," Flores said, adding that she wants those who come to the march to have the same realization. "At the march, it's not just vendors and speakers, there will be representatives from (groups) where people can find real ways to get connected."
Not only are there enough people in the area for Kern County to have its own march, having one here also lets people go who wouldn't be able to make a trip to Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Washington, D.C.
"It's a reminder to all of us: it's great if you have the means to travel" but a lot don't, organizer Whitney Weddell said. "We need to make this accessible. (Going to a march) shouldn't be a matter of privilege."
Although there wasn't an official Women's March in Kern County last year, there was an unofficial "mini march" the same day as the nationwide marches, Jan. 20. When Cal State Bakersfield lecturer Katy Hanson decided not to go to the L.A. march because of bad weather, she organized a last-minute march the night before. Details of the event spread quickly on social media, with about 200 people showing up at the corners of Stockdale Highway and California Avenue the next morning.
Attendance at this year's march is difficult to predict, but Kirchmer is hoping for 1,000. If 200 people can show up with less than 24 hours' notice, 800 more with a couple months' notice seems doable, especially if fewer are headed to L.A. on buses. And the march will go on, rain or shine.
"One person alone feels very un-empowered; they might feel like 'What can I do?'" Weddell said. "If we all come together, you hear there are so many people who share your concerns. People should come, if only to know they're not alone."