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Santa Clara Parade of Champions Returns on September 28

After a 23-year hiatus, the Santa Clara Parade of Champions is returning on Sept. 28 to Historic Downtown Santa Clara. The Santa Clara Parade of Champions, a volunteer-run and 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, will be donating this year’s proceeds to the JW House.

“This parade was the longest running event in the City of Santa Clara and the second largest parade in the State of California, right behind the Pasadena Rose,” said Ana Vargas-Smith, President of the Santa Clara Parade of Champions. “In 1945, the late Larry Marsalli, a former Santa Clara Mayor; Ed Cunha; and other community members wanted to raise money to welcome back the World War II veterans. It was a successful parade and they decided to do it every year for 50 years — 1995 was the last year we had this parade.”

Vargas-Smith explained that in 1995, Marsalli retired as the organizer of the parade. At that time, there was also an economic downturn in the City. So, the organizers decided to put the parade on hold. No one stepped up to bring the parade back until last year. Vargas-Smith, in a group of four, presented Mayor Lisa Gillmor with a strategy to bring this historical treasure and community event back to Santa Clara.


“We had to do $80,000 worth of fundraising on our own to cover our costs for the parade,” Vargas-Smith said. “We did a lot of cold calling. We did mailers. We did face-to-face with organizations, and we gave presentations. The people we approached had to share our values. Our values are charity, education, community building and volunteerism. We set ourselves up as a 501(c)(3) organization. There was a lot of operational set up. I want to thank the City of Santa Clara, Mayor Gillmor and the City Council for approving the $71,000 in City services with a community grant.”

On parade day, Sept. 28, festivities will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Working with non-profit organizations and other community resources, the Homestead Community Village will offer tents with interactive games and raffles. In addition, there will be a Farmer’s Market. One of the parade’s Grand Marshalls will be two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Brandi Chastain.

“The parade will start at 11 a.m. and will go until 1 p.m.,” Vargas-Smith said. “The City of Santa Clara is working on a float. There will be a total of 9 floats, 8 balloons, and there will be 11 marching bands — including the Santa Clara Vanguard. Some of these bands have about 250 members. In total, there will be over 1,500 people participating in the parade.”

At the parade, local groups represented will include Santa Clara Aquamaids, South Bay Blue Star Moms, Daughters of the American Revolution, Special Olympics Northern California, Santa Clara High School’s Black Student Union, Santa Clara High School’s Spirit Squad, Wilcox High School’s Football Team, Wilcox High School’s Varsity Song Pom Team and many more organizations.

This parade is giving young people an opportunity to participate in Santa Clara history. For example, Jessica O’Gorman, a student at Wilcox High School, belongs to DECA, a leadership club that has been working to promote the parade.

“We’re running social media related to the parade and we recruited a few groups from our school and from around the area to walk in and perform in the parade,” O’Gorman said.

According to Vargas-Smith, one thing that Marsalli had envisioned for this parade was that it would offer something for people from all generations.

“I spoke to Marsalli shortly before he passed away last year,” she said. “He was happy to know that the parade he founded is going to continue.”

Visit for more details about the Santa Clara Parade of Champions.


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