In 1945, Santa Clara, like many cities in the nation, experienced an influx of World War II veterans returning home from service abroad. Things had changed from the pre-War years and many mourned the loss of the feeling of cohesiveness the community once had. In response, a Columbus Day parade was held that year, which morphed into the City’s own Parade of Champions the following year.
“The Parade of Champions is a legacy parade,” said Ana Smith, president of the newly formed Parade of Champions organization. “It has deep roots as the oldest event in the history of Santa Clara. At one time it had been the second largest parade in California — second only to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses.”
The annual tradition of holding the parade continued for decades until 1995 when one of its primary founders, the late Larry Marsalli, retired from a long life of community service to Santa Clara. Today, with momentum to re-create Santa Clara’s downtown, a group of community members are also planning the resurgence of the Parade of Champions scheduled for September 28, 2019. The chosen date falls on a Saturday, which was deemed wise as Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium is the main draw on Sundays for 49ers games.
The spirit of the parade is a celebration of all the myriad elements that define Santa Clara. The historical parade showcased community leaders such as Marsalli, local sports champions, marching bands, schools, business leaders, elected officials and public servants. The new Parade of Champions will continue to honor all those individuals and groups, but also incorporate the changes that have taken place in more recent decades. Parade-goers can expect to enjoy experiencing the city’s traditional heritage as well as influences from Silicon Valley’s tech sector and the area’s rich cultural diversity.
“The community is coming together like it used to,” Smith commented. “There’s a high level of engagement right now.”
Smith explained that the Parade of Champions is now a 501c3 organization with an established board of directors. Weekly coffee chats are being held at Santa Clara University to discuss parade details and the organization has also hired an expert parade planner.
The next milestone for Smith and colleagues is to secure sponsorship from the City. The decision is scheduled for the City Council meeting on March 15. Smith said she’s hopeful that the Council Members will be eager to support the event but that the organization is actively fundraising from a variety of sources.
“Everybody loves a parade,” she said.