23ABC Community Connection


The Brightest Night of the Year kicks off the Christmas season in Kern County

Posted at 11:38 PM, Nov 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-27 02:38:28-05

It’s beginning to look, and sound a lot like Christmas in Kern County:

The Brightest Night of the Year lighting up the Town and Country Village and the faces of Bakersfield families Thursday night. The evening (emceed by 23ABC’s very own Mike Hart), began with the merry tunes of the Panama Buena-Vista strolling strings and the CSUB and Bakersfield High School carolers, but the holiday season was truly ushered in once Bakersfield Fire Chief Anthony Galagaza lit the Christmas tree.

“I get to go up there and tap it,” Bakersfield Fire Chief Anthony Galagaza said. “It’s kind of like magic.” 

Galaza said this free c=Christmas celebration, benefiting the Salvation Army and Shriner Hospitals for Children was a beacon, especially, when last year, like so many holiday festivities, it was canceled due to COVID.

“After the rough times we have had, Christmas is ready to go,” Galgaza said. “It’s about families and friends, getting together and celebrating the holidays, it’s exciting for all of us to be here.”

The event even drew visitors from out of town: Satish Ramasamy and Anitha Thirunavukarasu came with their children to watch their cousins perform at the event.

“Small towns have more of the holiday spirit than LA, where we used to be before, where Christmas is more commercial,” Ramasamy said. “So, we really like to celebrate Christmas in small towns where we can truly celebrate the spirit of Christmas.”

The spirit of Christmas Thursday night also included face painting, balloon animals, Olaf, and even Santa Claus.

“I see and recognize faces every year that say, ‘thank you lady! Thank you lady!' It’s pretty special to not charge anyone with a picture with Santa Claus these days,” event organizer of The Brightest Night of the Year, Rhonda Collins said.

Collins added that when it comes to the season of giving, attendees from near and far, truly get into the spirit.

“The Kern County Shriners ran out of ornaments, so we had to go get extra! You make a donation to the Shriners, and you get to put an ornament on the tree,” Collins said. And The Salvation Army gives out cocoa, but they take donations as well, and their bucket was full!”

Although the event is over, Collins said there’s ways to continue giving back to these two organizations. She said you can reach out to the Town & Country Village on their Facebook page, and they’ll direct you to how you can give back to non profits this holiday season. Salvation Army, in particular will take both food and clothing.