We are the (Parade of) Champions!


Allen Loomis, Staff Writer

Santa Clara is a city full of champions.. On September 28th, the Santa Clara Parade of Champions was held for the first time in 25 years in Downtown Santa Clara, near Franklin Square and Santa Clara University. Over 150 groups participated in the parade itself, including the Vanguard group, football teams, cheer teams, and the Wilcox Robotics club. All participating groups came from local schools or community organizations. A large and diverse group of people gathered to join in the festivities and watch the parade. The success of the event was largely due to efforts by the Parade of Champions, a nonprofit organization that worked with the city and a large group of sponsors, as well as with Wilcox’s own DECA club.
The true champions of Santa Clara got spotlighted in the parade: Vanguard, a Santa Clara based percussion group. Vanguard won the Drum Corps International competition in 2018. Several multicultural clubs from Wilcox also marched in the parade, such as BSU and others. Outside of the parade, youth organizations, nonprofits, schools, sports teams, and the Santa Clara government hosted fundraising events in the “Homestead Community Hub.” The Community Hub also included a kid zone, run by the San Jose Earthquakes. The Homestead Community Hub was a place of high importance for the Parade of Champions nonprofit group. Their aim was to raise money for other nonprofits and help build a sense of community among residents of Santa Clara and parade attendees. A portion of the parade’s proceeds have also been donated to the JW House, since they partnered with the Parade of Champions nonprofit group.
The President of the Parade of Champions nonprofit group, Ana Varags Smith, described the Homestead Community Hub as, “Over 55 booths of fun, business, and community engagement.” When asked what the purpose of the community hub was, Smith responded, “The Homestead village represents what Santa Clara used to be; a gathering place.” The goal of the nonprofit group was to “become the platform for community building in Santa Clara,” and to “connect all demographics so that grandmas will love the parade” and “the grandkids will love the parade.” The Parade of Champions group aims to make the event an annual celebration like it once was, and an annual $70,000 commitment to the city’s budget plan demonstrates great strides in this effort. The Parade of Champions group was happy to branch their operations to several outside organizations, such as our school’s DECA club, which helped the Parade of Champions with organization, marketing, and collecting data on their performance during the parade. They also helped brainstorm with the group to make the parade more enjoyable for all generations, uplifting the parade’s “Proud Past, Future Force” motto. Members of the DECA team were proud to work with such a willing nonprofit group.
Several board members of the event are also on the district education board, which is why so many schools participated in the event. Some board members have a deep connection to the city of Santa Clara, and remember marching in the parade themselves. These committed board members used their variety of skills and connections to help better the parade.
Community was always a big part of the Parade of Champions, even when Mr. Marsalli, also known as Mr. Santa Clara and organizer of the annual community Thanksgiving, was running the event up until his retirement in 1995. It was his retirement that caused the disassembly of the parade in 1995, but before then, the Parade of Champions was the second largest parade in California, second only to the Rose Bowl. It has also been the longest running parade, as it has celebrated 50 years of Santa Clara spirit and community. The parade first started in 1945 and expanded to involve a greater part of the community. In 1945, the entire city would gather in downtown Santa Clara, founded in 1852, and celebrate their community and heritage. Historic downtown Santa Clara is also the geographical center of Silicon Valley. The Parade of Champions nonprofit group wants to make this center a community hub like it once was.
The Santa Clara Parade of Champions strives to build a sense of community by bringing back and incorporating several different acts both inside and out of the parade. Impressive local groups were seen and celebrated. Neighbors from all over the city came to meet one another, and after the parade, they learned much more about each other. Community is built in the city, and the parade is on the annual budget, so you can be a part of this community building experience every year.