Who doesn't love a Parade?
Santa Clara has a long History of Parade Traditions
The "Parade of Champions" has been a time-honored legacy in Santa Clara since 1945 when it welcomed back home its WWII Heroes--the original Champions. It was run by founders Larry Marsalli and Ed Cunha and their fiscal NPO partner YMI (Young Men's Institute) for 50 years. The YMI Parade of Champions lasted until 1995 when its founders retired leaving generations of Santa Clarans with a legacy of lasting memories, and a sense of community. As per Larry Marsalli in his last year, "....everyone loves a Parade but not everyone is able to organize one."
Fast forward to 2019 after a 24 year hiatus, a determined group of grass roots Santa Claran locals who grew up with the parade as youths, came together to bring it back. The founders of this reinvented Nonprofit was led by President Ana Vargas-Smith, VP Rod Dunham, Officers Secretary Patti Allmon, Treasurer Karen Ardizzone, Community Relations Mary Grizzle, and Advisory Board Members Andy Ratermann, Jodi Muirhead and Mike Lombardi. To ensure that the parade could fundraise on its own, the organization restructured as a 501c3 NPO and called it the Santa Clara Parade of Champions (SCPOC)--a very different structure than the orginal community parade that relied on YMI, their fiscal NPO partner for fundraising. For locals it was a dream come true to see the return of their annual hometown favorite. The SCPOC's mission is to become a platform that connects with all facets of our diverse city and county organizations that share our values of community building, volunteerism, and giving back. Every year a portion of our proceeds go to a charitable community partner. Since 2019 we have chosen JW House
Santa Clara Fire Apparatus
In its early days when Fall rolled around in Santa Clara, the community knew it was time for the annual YMI sponsored Parade of Champions Festival week! The Parade featured daily events in the community, carnival rides, a Talent show, Battle of the Bands, Live Music and a Street Dance--the best of the best and something for everyone. It was well-attended statewide, in fact at its peak it was second only to the Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade.
The Parade celebrated our Veterans and invited our leadership from the Mayor and City Council, County Supervisor, and State Assembly and even the Governor one year! All rode in their vintage convertibles. Our front line community heroes like SCPD and SCFD, Chamber and community leaders, local institutions like the Library, Universities and High Schools clubs, sports, and youth groups, Floats featuring local businesses, entertainment from Hollywood, Clowns, equestrians, and world Champions and Olympic Gold Medal Winners, Scouts, Santa Clara Swim Club, Aquamaids, the Miss Santa Clara organization, Cultural groups like the S.E.S. Board, members and Queens and fellow nonprofits--all performing and waving for the thousands lining the streets.
The Marching bands would perform for the crowds throughout, Cheerleaders and dance teams, Equestrians and Professional Sports teams. There was something for everyone. And for the grand finale the performance of 7 time World Champions, the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corp rounding up the day's Entertainment.
Mr. Larry J. Marsalli (June 4, 1926 – July 2, 2018) was known as Mr. Santa Clara, lifelong resident and civil servant--was born on Santa Clara Street, went to St. Clare's School, attended Bellarmine prep and graduated from Santa Clara High school. He proudly served in WWII as an army staff sergeant. Returned home, married and started a family. Larry was Mayor from 1967-68, and served on city council for 11 years, and served on and headed numerous commissions and nonprofit boards. He was also a founding member of Mission City Community Fund (MCCF) and co-founder and Chairman of the YMI Annual Parade of Champions. His community service lives on through the Marsalli Family Foundation. He has inspired generations into community service. Its this love of community that has also inspired our SCPOC board of directors and volunteers to commit to make sure the parade thrives for another 50 years!