WATSONVILLE — Bill Neighbors, whose community service experience began 25 years ago when he moved to Santa Cruz County, has also been known to act as chauffeur for the Grand Marshal during the annual Spirit of Watsonville Grand Parade on July 4.
This year, however, city leaders are looking for a new driver after Neighbors was named as this year’s Grand Marshal.
Neighbors said he was “shocked” that he had been selected.
“There are a lot of deserving people in Watsonville,” he said.
Neighbors was born in the Midwest but came to Watsonville when he was stationed at Fort Ord while serving in the U.S. Army.
He said he began volunteering in 1969 after he met Watsonville resident Alex Solano.
“(Solano) told me that, ‘you always want to give back to the community where you live and work,’” Neighbors said.
Neighbors has lived in Watsonville with his wife, Virgie, for more than 43 years.
He has served on dozens of commissions and boards ranging from the Watsonville Planning Commission to the Watsonville Rotary Club.
As the co-founder of the Watsonville National Night Out, Neighbors works with Watsonville Police Department and Watsonville Parks and Community Services to put on the event.
In 2008, Neighbors was awarded the Santa Cruz County Volunteer of the Year and in 2009 he was recognized as the Pajaro Valley Chamber Man of the Year.
This year’s parade, which includes car clubs, tractors, fire engines, antique cars, local nonprofit agencies, equestrian units and the Watsonville Band, begins at 2 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church at Main Street and Freedom Boulevard.
Watsonville Senior Administrative Analyst Doug Mattos estimated more than 50 entries will join the parade this year, which is expected to draw thousands of people.
“This is a wonderful multi-cultural tradition in Watsonville,” Mattos said. “It’s a fun, inspiring way to get into a patriotic mood.”
Anyone wishing to participate in the parade may download an application at www.spiritofwatsonville.com.
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