SANTA CLARA (KPIX) – The city of Santa Clara revived a 50 -year tradition on Saturday with the return of the “Parade of Champions,” a community event that celebrates the sheer joy of having a community event.
Santa Clara’s Parade of Champions began as a welcome-home to the troops in 1945. It happily continued as a tradition for 50 years but it ended in 1995 and Ana Vargas-Smith, president of the parade foundation, did not don’t know why
“I left Santa Clara and, when I came back, I said‘ where did the parade go? ’” Vargas-Smith said. “So we got some people, my community – about six of us – and we brought it back!”
Tony Cardoso remembers now living with Tracy who went to the parade as a child with her grandmother.
“It’s something I had in mind when I was a kid, you know?” he said. “We’ve been coming every year for years, you know?”
Actually the parade was back in 2019 but was kicked to the side last year due to the pandemic. Saturday, it was back in force – 85 entries, more than 2,000 participants in all. There were march bands, classic cars, bagpipers, school kids and costumed people. After a year in lockdown, this was all the doctor ordered.
“We need to see each other’s laughter, each other’s faces,” Anna Parada said as she waved at the marchers from the sidewalk. “After all these masks, we need to see our smiles.”
Unlike other parades that celebrate specific holidays or groups of people, the Parade of Champions is relatively difficult to define. The Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps are World Champions in 2018 but most of the entries on Saturday were just people who wanted to strut their stuff in the middle of the street.
“We highlighted everything, you know? It’s an eclectic mix but that’s just the fun of it,” parade board member Jodi Muirhead said.
This year’s parade is said to respect frontline health care workers but they are hard to find among the marchers. The grand marshall was Krazy George, whose strength was always a shot in the arm for anyone who might be sad.
“It’s interconnected all around this whole community!” he said, beating his drum. “We have left. We overcame the virus – we overcame it – and it was fun! This parade is great! Santa Clara is great! ”
Maybe he was right. The real guest of honor is the community itself. After a year of cancellation and isolation, of masks and orders, almost anyone who survives can consider themselves a little champion.
“It’s just one of the things you do,” longtime parade-goer Mary Cardoso said. “And everyone just said, ‘Oh, we have to go to the Parade of Champions! It’s a parade of champions, that’s where all the winners come from!'”
The parade lasted nearly two hours but the event continued into the early evening with a Farmers Market, community booths, dining and salsa dancing in the town plaza.