Made in Kern County: Westchester 4th of July Parade

The Americana of Westchester's 4th of July parade
Posted at 2:43 PM, Jul 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-25 19:08:33-04

It’s the moment we all wait for on the 4th—fireworks lighting up the night sky, with your family close by—But what about the hours leading up to the big show? 

One Bakersfield family had the idea to bring the patriotic pride of the 4th to the streets of downtown. 

It was on 20th street in the historic Westchester neighborhood where one family began a tradition that has gone on for more than three decades. 

Bringing families together the morning of the 4th of July to hit the streets and show their love for the nation, and their love for their neighbors. 

”It was important that they appreciated what independence day was all about.” 

Sue Benham began that mission to show the true meaning of the 4th in 1989—gathering a handful of families, headed out on down their street. “I wanted the kids, my kids to have a way to celebrate in a patriotic way, and I didn’t want it to just be about fireworks at night, I wanted them to have flags, and music, and so it grew into that,” she said. 

The first parade, dubbed the “20th street 4th of July parade.” 

“We started with I think about 6 families, and just rode around 20th and Cedar, they decoded their bikes with streets and flags.” 

From those humble beginnings, the parade grew. ”We would just pass out the flyers, and every year it got a little bigger,” Benham described. 

Neighbors coming from several streets over, she said at some point there were people she didn’t recognize. 

The parade in the last 20-years packed with hundreds of people—kids decorating their bikes, and colorful floats, parents pulling kids in red wagons. 

Many car clubs, and car enthusiasts bringing a classic patriotic touch to the parade, and one neighbor, adding a signature sound to the parade. 

A revolutionary war replica canon—set off to signal the start of the parade. Marching bands, the fire department and friendly neighbors all dawning the downtown streets. “It was fun to have something that they could participate in and enjoy,” Benham said. 

The Americana of Westchester’s 4th of July parade still very much alive after nearly 30-years--and it all began right here in Kern County.