The visibility was not ideal, and the number of aircraft appeared to be fewer than promised.
But when a pair of F-35 Lightning fighter jets banked right and roared directly over downtown Bakersfield (sounding like a tornado tearing through a Kansas cornfield) it was hard to not be impressed.
Residents watched from rooftops, overpasses or from their own backyards as a succession of fighter jets, cargo aircraft and strategic bombers soared over the streets of Bakersfield in an extended display of military hardware organized by the Aerospace Valley Air Show, which went "hybrid" this year thanks to COVID-19.
The planes could also be seen in the skies above Tehachapi.
Brig. Gen. Matthew Higer, commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, announced earlier this summer that the traditional air show would become a "hybrid event."
"We are not going to a have a whole bunch of people on the installation … boots on the ground, static displays, buses, all that," he said.
Higer explained the air show planning team would put together a hybrid event with airplanes in the sky supplemented by a strong social media presence.
On Friday, the airplanes in the sky materialized.
"My mom would take me to air shows when I was really young. I still like them," said Saul Gonzalez, who, along with his friend Samuel Ramirez, was visiting from Salinas when they heard that a variety of military aircraft would make appearances over Bakersfield.
The friends went to the top of Bakersfield's downtown parking garage Friday morning, where a group of curious residents, aviation buffs, amateur and professional photographers had gathered.
Gonzalez said he dreams of becoming an aviation engineer some day. But until that transpires, he follows the planes in air shows stretching from San Diego to Northern California.
It wasn't always easy to identify the planes that blew through town Friday. Was that an F-16 or a T-38? Was that a KC-135 refueling tanker or a C-17 Globemaster? The wildfire smoke and distance made it tougher.
But when a B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber flew over the downtown skyline, it was unmistakable. The subsonic aircraft, first introduced in the early 1950s, remains in military service today thanks to several upgrades and improvements.
Its visit to Bakersfield was courtesy of the 419th Flight Test Squadron stationed at Edwards Air Force Base.
Octavio Flores also came to the top of the parking garage to view the flyover. With him were Natalie Ogden and Ogden's 5-year-old son, Zaaden.
"Zaaden just started kindergarten," Flores said. "This is kind of a lunchtime field trip."
Flores wondered about what the planes' pilots and crews thought about their own field trip to the skies above Bakersfield, Oildale, Lamont, Arvin and Tehachapi.
"I'm sure they're enjoying doing something a little different," he said. "To come here and show off these incredible planes."
"I've never seen planes this size in this area, back-to-back like this," he said.
Mark Murillo carried a camera with a long lens Friday in hopes of capturing some shots of the aircraft. A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Murillo later joined the National Guard.
He said he's been aboard some of the big military troop carrier planes, as well as an aircraft carrier.
"I feel the excitement of it," he said. "It's great to see this, and what it represents for the country."