There were miniature dinosaurs, Caterpillar earth-movers, plush toys and rows of shiny bicycles complete with big red bows.
All of it, billowing over boxes and overflowing onto the asphalt of The Bakersfield Californian's downtown parking lot, was brought by community groups, local business leaders and individuals who broke away from their morning, afternoon and evening commutes, stopped, and gave from their heart.
In a couple of weeks, all of it will be distributed to needy children throughout Kern County as part of the annual CHiPs for KiDs Toy Drive, which has partnered with The Bakersfield Californian for each of the past six Decembers.
“Knowing this will help someone who’s maybe out of work or down on their luck and has to support their families, we’re making a good impact,” California Highway Patrol Officer Roberto Rodriguez said.
The giveaway also allows the community to view law enforcement in a positive light, Rodriguez added.
The toy drive drop-off event kicked off at 5 a.m. with a parade of toys that came from Hall Ambulance, Payless Towing and other local groups that unloaded truck after truck of goodies.
But donations also came from those who were just passing by and slowed down to see what all the fuss was about.
That was the case for Ryan Mallard, who drove by, saw what was happening and rushed to Rite Aid down the street to pick up a few emergency vehicle playsets and a stuffed animal — all of which were marked down 50 percent, he added.
“If we have a couple extra bucks to give back, why not?” Mallard said. (Full disclosure, Mallard is related to The Bakersfield Californian’s human resources manager, Shanan Mallard, a prime organizer of the event.)
The holidays seem to creep up faster and faster every year. Connie Adams didn’t remember the toy drive was going on until she was driving by Wednesday morning and saw the crowd of TBC Media employees waving signs and collecting donations on the corner.
She used to buy toys every year, but it's gotten harder to find the time to do that these days, she said.
“In and out of town,” she said. She opted to cut a check for $50.
The annual 13-hour toy drive event fetched more than 1,600 toys last year and roughly $1,600 in cash (and check) donations stuffed into the stockings that helpers toted around downtown.
This year's toy count, at 2,729, crushed last year's number. Plus, $885 was collected.
The drive runs through Dec. 18. New, unwrapped toys can be taken to the CHP office on Compagnoni Street, Motor City (in the Auto Mall), The Bakersfield Californian, United Way on Stockdale Highway, KERO 23's news department and Carniceria La Carreta locations.
Toys collected will benefit local children from infant to 16 years of age.