As Santa Paula's annual Christmas parade rolled by Saturday, 3-year-old Ruben Monen was a believer.
Chortling at the sight of ponies outfitted with floppy cloth antlers, the toddler tugged at his father's pants leg.
"Look, Daddy, reindeer!" the boy called gleefully.
Ruben, along with older brother Christopher Jr., 5; younger brother, Steven, 1; father, Christopher Sr., 34, and mother, Betty, 33, were among several hundred enthusiastic onlookers lining the city's Main Street for the event.
The parade featured marching bands, civic groups and lots of diversions for restless children.
"This is so much fun!" said Cathy Metelak, 43, a longtime Santa Paula resident. "This is what little towns are all about." Metelak said her daughter, Hali, 15, marched with the Santa Paula High School girls basketball team. Her son, Chad, 11, played saxophone as he walked the parade route with the Isbell Middle School band.
"My kids have been in this parade since they were little," she said. "Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, 4-H, band--everything kids can get involved with, they've marched to it."
As for Elizabeth Staires, 81, she was happy to leave with a small stuffed bear, thrown out to the sidewalk by one of the marchers.
"This parade is beautiful! Look here what I got," she said, holding up the cream-colored toy.
"I just can't believe all the work that has gone into this parade," she said.
A block to the west, Dick and Myrna Garrison cheered as their granddaughter, Bonnie McGhee, 16, strode by playing the clarinet in a marching band.
"We're Gramps and Gram," Dick Garrison, 64, explained. "We don't miss this."
Their other granddaughter, Jennie McGhee, 12, they hastened to add, marched as a saxophonist with the middle school band.
Though grand events like the Rose Parade are "really pretty," the Garrisons said, they prefer their hometown parades.
"To us, it's more nostalgic, because it's hometown," said Myrna Garrison, 62.
Besides, the Garrisons added, Santa Paula remains so small that it's still the kind of place you can cheer about at local parades.
"We know all the people around here," Dick Garrison said. "When I get my car washed, if I don't have enough money with me, I can pay next time. I don't need 35 IDs when I go to the hardware store."