Virtual Parade, Real Community Spirit


Courtesy of Allen Loomis The 2020 Virtual Santa Clara Parade of Champions started by paying tribute to last year’s parade.

Allen Loomis

On October 10th, the Santa Clara Parade of Champions aired the 2020 Virtual Parade of Champions across several different viewing platforms. The parade celebrated the progress the Santa Clara community has made in fighting COVID-19 and paid tribute to the frontline heroes. Live audience members watched pre-recorded segments submitted by the community with commentary from a live audience and announcer. The parade has over 1.4 thousand views on Youtube, and can be found at the Santa Clara Parade of Champions Youtube account. 

The Parade of Champions is a long standing tradition in California that was brought back in 2019. The 2019 parade featured marching bands, dance groups, non-profits, school clubs, and more from around the Bay Area. This year, the parade  wanted to include the same groups, but in a virtual format that allowed any citizen of the city or county to submit a brief video of themself. The Parade of Champions organization encouraged community members to send in short clips of them thanking the front line heroes and providing words of encouragement to the community to get through the tough times 

When asked about the success of the parade, Santa Clara Parade of Champions President, Ana Vargas-Smith stated, “The City is over the top proud about the result as are we. This was exactly what we all needed to rebuild our community spirit”.

Several city officials ranging from the Santa Clara SWAT team to the Silicon Valley Central Chamber, to the Mayor herself took advantage of the opportunity to communicate to the city and its citizens. Several businesses in the area such as State Farms and Jiaren’s Cafe and Yoga Studios also submitted videos thanking the community for their support through the COVID-19 shutdowns.  

Throwing a virtual parade is no easy feat. “COVID put a stop to our 2020 parade. State and country prohibited mass gatherings. We had to shift gears and come up with a creative way to meet, gather, fundraise, and celebrate in 2020.” is what Ms. Vargas-Smith stated when asked about overcoming the challenges of a virtual parade.  

Not only was COVID-19 an issue, but the funds for this virtual parade were needed as well.“We met with  the  Mayor, City Manager, and a few Council members on the Economic and Marketing Committee and presented our  Business Plan, and Budget along with a list of bids. City council approved the community grant.”, Ms. Vargas Smith said when asked about the process of securing funds for a virtual parade. Commenting on the timeline, Ms. Vargas-Smith mentioned how, “We had 6 weeks to hire Ray Pulver of Upbeat Parades, Emmy Award Winning Kevin Wing Productions, and Beyond Pix Studios and get to work.”. 

The Parade also did vast amounts of community outreach over Zoom calls with our school’s DECA club (The Wilcox Business Experience). “SCPOC also connected with Dr. Stella Kemp of SCUSD and Unified School Board, Silicon Valley Central Chamber, City, Sponsors, NPOs and a variety of Stakeholders to secure “self produced” content, PR/Promotion, grant and sponsorships. “We ended up with 120 Video Submissions in total.” Ms. Vargas-Smith said when describing who she worked with to get content for the Parade. Ms. Vargas-Smith is very thankful to all the support she got from the community, and is especially thankful to all the Wilcox school clubs that submitted the videos   

Many people are looking forward to the end of social distancing, and the parade is no exception. However, the parade recognized its success with online elements and is considering incorporating some of it into next year’s event. 

An Actual parade but with Virtual Elements.” Is how Ms. Vargas-Smith described it,  “Last year we had 95 groups participating in the parade, in 2020 we had 120 groups participating in the Virtual parade so next year we want to see 200 groups participating both live and virtually in the 2021 Parade.” 

“Chat room and live feed elements we incorporated into the prerecorded video segments. The Green Screen allowed us to and showcase historic places we would not experience in an actual live parade. It also allowed the community to interact, and tell stories, engage with their community in new ways that wouldn’t normally be possible in a traditional parade”, Ms. Vargas-Smith added when providing specific examples of what may be included in next year’s parade, “There are many benefits that came out of this Virtual Parade experience we are still learning about.”. 

The Santa Clara Parade of Champions started in 1945 and soon became a long standing tradition until it’s founder and organizer, Larry Marsalli, retired in 1995. After a 24 year pause, the Parade made great strides in restoring the tradition, attracting nearly ten thousand attendees to the 2019 parade. The parade is proud of its past, and looks forward to celebrating next year’s champions as well.