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June 1, 2023

Spirit of Watsonville parade to return in full force

After a two-year hiatus, the Spirit of Watsonville Fourth of July Parade will finally be returning to the Pajaro Valley.

Parade goers can expect all the usual favorites, from the mayor riding in a vintage convertible, new and antique fire engines, nonprofit and community groups, local businesses, car clubs, folklorico dance groups, marching bands, equestrian groups and more.

Other highlights will include one of Metro Santa Cruz’s new electric buses on display, marchers dressed as LED robots, and this year’s Grand Marshall, Girlz Squad.

“We’re excited to return to celebrate the Fourth of July with the beloved Spirit of Watsonville neighborhood parade,” said Jessica Beebe, recreation supervisor at the City of Watsonville. “We hope everyone will turn out.”

This year’s theme is “Stars on Main Street,” inviting participants to demonstrate their creativity and talent with their outfits, floats and displays. 

Beebe said that groups have been especially dedicated this year.

“The community is just thrilled to be part of this again,” she said. “They’re ready to go. It’s been wonderful. We’ve had a really good response. People are just thrilled to be able to get out there, show their patriotism and support the community.”

Beebe highlighted and thanked the 2022 sponsors, including Driscoll’s Inc., Chevrolet of Watsonville and the Pajaronian. 

“We’re super grateful for everyone who has made it possible for us to bring this favorite event back to the community,” she said. 

This year’s Grand Marshall, Girlz Squad, is a community organizing group led by Barbie Gomez. The group volunteers, raises money for nonprofits and donates to various causes through social media.

Beebe explained how the group “steps in and helps people and fills gaps in the community.”

“All the money they raise goes directly to the causes,” she said. “They’re just community-minded people who keep on giving.”

Throughout the summer, Girlz Squad is running a summer camp for kids who can’t afford other options. They recently raised $5,000 in one day to purchase championship rings for Watsonville High School Softball and Boys Soccer.

As of June 22, Girlz Squad had 886 members on Facebook.

Gomez called being chosen as Grand Marshall “an amazing honor.”

“But everything we do in this town … We don’t do it for recognition,” she said. “It’s more about being a support, touching lives however we can to lift people up. During Covid, it’s been really hard for our local families and business. We wanted to help in a positive way in any way we can.”

The return of the annual parade is significant, Gomez said.

“The fact we haven’t had any close proximity events in our town, bringing the parade back is such a big deal,” she said. “We’re so used to having this parade. We’ve sort of taken it for granted all these years. We’re excited to get it going again and fill the streets with people.”

Beebe said that the parade is part of a much larger month-long celebration, Parks Make Life Better Month. Free community events and activities will be held throughout the Pajaro Valley every day during the month of July. This includes everything from community bike rides and pedal boats at Pinto Lake, to CPR classes and chair yoga sessions.

“This is about what parks truly do for the community,” Beebe said. “There are lots of fun things happening here this summer. We’d love for people to check them out.”

The Spirit of Watsonville Fourth of July Parade will kick off at noon on July 4, proceeding down Main Street from St. Patrick’s Church to First Street. Parade goers are encouraged to arrive early to secure a spot along the route.

For information, visit cityofwatsonville.org. Some of the Parks Make Life Better Month events do require pre-registration at watsonvillerec.com.

Johanna Miller
Reporter Johanna Miller grew up in Watsonville, attending local public schools and Cabrillo College before transferring to Pacific University Oregon to study Literature. She covers arts and culture, business, nonprofits and agriculture.


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