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Virtual Parade of Champions Honoring Pandemic Heroes Makes Santa Clara Proud

Adversity brought the Santa Clara community together in a unique undertaking. More than 120 service organizations, nonprofits, businesses, schools and individual contributors, marched into history in Santa Clara’s 2020 Virtual Parade of Champions.

The celebration honored America’s and Santa Clara’s frontline and behind-the-scenes heroes who are keeping the community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also uplifted the spirits of participants and viewers and created community pride.

“The Parade of Champions is a showcase of Santa Clara Spirit,” said Mayor Lisa Gillmor.


Parade emcee and Santa Clara native Taylor Amarante, sports announcer for the San Jose Earthquakes, welcomed a virtual community of about four thousand to the two-hour and 10-minute parade, launched on YouTube and live streamed on Facebook on Saturday, Oct. 10.​

“This is a great production! Thank you Parade of Champions Team! City pride and joy abounds!” wrote Elise.

Snippets from the successful live 2019 parade were intermixed with the 2020 virtual parade presentations — testimonials from the Mayor and City Council Members, City workers, the superintendent of schools and others, along with dances and music.

Santa Clara and Wilcox High Schools, the College of Adaptive Arts, and Mission College, which has programs to train emergency responders, contributed. The Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps performed for the parade finale.

No hero went unappreciated. Tribute was paid to the obvious heroes — medical workers, firefighters, police officers, educators, and essential workers.

Tribute was also paid to heroes one might not otherwise have remembered.

The Retro Notes Jazz Band dedicated an original song to Dr. Li Wenliang, the late doctor from Wuhan, China, who first alerted the world to COVID-19.

“Thank you to all who work in the funeral industry. We are essential workers….,” wrote Frances in one of more than 400 live chat comments.

The award for Best Organization yard display went to JW House ( in Santa Clara, the charity partner of the SCPOC. It was earlier presented with a check for $5,000.

The People’s Choice Award went to Tressa Williams’s State Farm Agency. The Best Decorated Residence Award went to the Skeleton Crew Santa Clara.

“Ana [Vargas-Smith], what an outstanding parade. Your team knocked it out of the park. Congratulations!” wrote Mike.

Vargas-Smith is president of the Santa Clara Parade of Champions, an all-volunteer nonprofit created in 2019 to reinstate the parade after a hiatus of 24 years. She was recognized on Oct. 2 as a 2020 Community Hero by California State Assembly District 25 Assemblymember Kansen Chu.

“I am so very proud of how our community participated with enthusiasm and creativity — young and old and everyone in between. Their contribution to the parade came from their hearts,” said Vargas-Smith. “There were many moments that pulled at my heart strings.”

To view the virtual parade, visit The 2021 live Parade of Champions is scheduled for Oct. 9. It will include popular virtual features of the 2020 parade.


  1. Julie DeNeve 4 years ago

    The display we put together was selected as best home display. We have declined to accept that designation & award. We, as a community, know what we put into the display and the voting, and we thank you for all the support.
    This was never about winning for us – it was about an opportunity to thank the heroes we have depended on in this time of great need. We were happy to use the Crew platform for such a tribute.
    However, accepting this designation & award would give legitimacy to the “People’s Choice” winner and that is not acceptable to us. Tressa William’s State Farm Agency:
    1. Did not put time or effort into honoring heroes in the photo op she submitted of the front of her business, did not mention heroes in any of her online communications, nor did she honor anyone but herself in that shameless self-promotion commercial;
    2. She endangered her own employees in making that video and thus, likely broke the law, and has been reported to the DA and State Farm Corporate;
    3. She may have used the assets of a Fortune 500 company and possibly her connections at the SCPOC to subvert the votes of the community she claims to serve. Hence the ethics complaint filed with State Farm Corporate.
    All of this to get free advertising? The SCPOC enabled this and refused to alter course. The SCPOC also claims to have only positive feedback while they delete any negative comments or questions on sites they control.
    We would not stand next to Tressa Williams on a stage and pretend that she legitimately earned such an honor. She is a disgrace to the meaning of the word.
    Our refusal to accept this award does not diminish the efforts of the 99.9% who contributed to the true cause of this year’s SCPOC – thanking our heroes. We thank you for paying tribute to them. We are forever indebted to our heroes of 2020. #twilliamsagency #scparadeofchampions

  2. Mary Jeanne Oliva 4 years ago

    It was a really wonderful community effort in the Maywood Park area when neighbors contributed prop and costume items and The Skeleton Crew spent several weeks and hundreds of their own dollars to decorate the residence on Atherton Drive to honor at least 12 different first responders and essential workers. We were very disappointed, to say the least, when we found that Tressa Williams’ State Farm agency won the “People’s Choice” vote with her Fires Safety Week banner and some letters spelling out “Served Up for our Firefighters.” The sweet girls who thanked their teachers put in more effort with fewer resources.

  3. ANA VARGAS-SMITH 4 years ago

    This is our second year organizing the Parade of Champions–its been a labor of love especially in 2020. We all had to learn zoom and a variety of new technology to keep our lives humming along. No one saw this pandemic coming last year–this is year for the history books. Our Virtual Concept was to be inclusive of all Santa Clarans. We wanted to give our community an opportunity to share a video in our virtual parade–the images and messages about their hero ranged from a cheer, a dance routine or a comedy bookmobile skit (Thanks Cody!)–there were somber moments and playful ones too. Many spoke of their teachers, doctors, nurses, police, firefighters, mom and pops, and essential workers who made sure we had food on the table to eat despite SIP. My heart is full and I am proud of Santa Clara and how many of us cared for our community with kindness and strength. I grew up here. Watching the Parade video reminded me of why Santa Clara was nominated as the best city to live in California by the California Chamber. Proud to be the president and a founder of this grass roots organization SCPOC. I want to thank our Board members and directors, the volunteers and their long hours in community outreach. I like to thank the folks who participated in the contest like the mom and pops in downtown with Santa Clara businesses, nonprofits like JW House, Salvation Army and Blue Star Moms, Schools like St. Clare and Buchser, and residents who showcased their historic homes with us and the many front yards. Our Panel of Judges had a hard time choosing between all the creative displays but they chose 3 and the District with the most community Spirit that won was District 5!!! As for the People’s choice–it was a fun category. Creativity was not the criteria but being social online was. The public decided who their favorite was and voted online with gusto. The winner won by a wide margin. Thank you for all who showed their community spirit this year! Grateful to the community grant to cover our production costs and all our generous Sponsors who made sure that we had a virtual parade to commemorate one of the most challenging years this century–2020. Until next year’s parade in 2021–we hope to meet in person—stay safe and healthy Santa Clara.

  4. Amy Korinke 4 years ago

    J W House and SCPOC are NOT affiliated with

  5. Editor 4 years ago

    Thank you. The correction has been made.

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