This year, I’m thankful for vaccination jungles, live theater and more

I think we all really had hoped 2021 was going to be a miracle comeback year after 2020, and the final assessment will probably end up as “Well, that could have been worse.” But with Thanksgiving here, let’s take a moment to reflect on the positive.

So here’s my annual list of people and things I’m grateful for that kept this year in Silicon Valley from falling into the “worse” category.

• Dr. Sara Cody and the other Bay Area health officers still top my list for what’s been an amazing vaccination campaign in the region, where the percentage of vaccinated people is in the high-70s. And they haven’t been alone: Donations from Silicon Valley tech leader Godfrey Sullivan and a bunch of Bay Area companies led by Bloom Energy VP Carl Guardino turned the pediatric vaccination clinic at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds’ Exposition Hall into an awesome jungle experience with palm trees, animal statues, paper lanterns and activities for kids.

• All the Bay Area arts groups that went through hoops — sometimes moving hoops — to bring live performances back to audiences this year. A big round of applause is owed to everyone at City Lights Theater Company, San Jose Stage, Tabard Theatre, Opera San Jose, TheatreWorks, San Jose Jazz and all the other companies that are working to keep us entertained (and keep artists working).

• Khori Dastoor, who is taking her talent to Houston’s Grand Opera in January after a too-short tenure as Opera San Jose’s general director, deserves our thanks for pushing the company forward with a diverse, exciting season. The same goes for Meredith King, who kept the spirit of late founder Richard Orlando alive at San Jose’s Northside Theatre until its closing was announced this year.

• Andrew Bales, who is heading off into retirement soon, deserves a standing ovation after decades as a leader in San Jose’s arts community, a role that included resurrecting the symphony 20 years ago. And a second thanks to Bales and the board of the renamed San Jose Symphony for putting the city’s name back in lights.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 21: Symphony Silicon Valley President Andrew Bales poses for a portrait in front of the California Theatre in downtown San Jose, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. He plans on retiring this season. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

• Teri Hope, Jonathan Knowles and Michael Jacobi and everyone else at Los Gatos Music and Arts who have worked to keep the summer Jazz on the Plazz series alive for 2022.

• Rob Jensen, Warren Trezevant and their team of artists for bringing back “Sonic Runway” to San Jose City Hall for the next six years, a big win for the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, led by Kerry Adams-Hapner.

• The artists — including Alfonso Salazar, Lila Gemellos, Chuba Oyolu, Roberto Romo, Roan Victor and Kristina Micotti — who added to San Jose’s rich and growing collection of murals. And thanks to Carol Dabbs and the Los Altos Rotary Club, who turned the town into an art gallery this summer with more than four dozen fiberglass bears painted by local artists.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Aug. 21: Joggers pass by Alfonso Enrique Salazar’s new mural, “We Are Still Here,” along the Guadalupe Trail in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) 

• San Jose State University President Mary Papazian, who is leaving her post next month because of a sexual harassment scandal in the athletics department but still deserves appreciation for building bridges between SJSU and the city of San Jose better than any president has in decades.

• Nancy Bavor, who is retiring as executive director of the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, for providing a platform for artists to add to the downtown SoFA district’s rich tapestry — both inside and around their building.

• The Abierto program, which designated $1.4 million from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s Budget Office for the arts community and public space activations all summer and into the fall. That included two Viva CalleSJ events and others coordinated by Filco Events, the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, the San Jose Downtown Association and San Jose Jazz.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 19: Drag queens race on sofa during Viva Calle San Jose in San Jose, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021. (Shae Hammond/Bay Area News Group) 

• The seemingly tireless workers and volunteers at all the Bay Area food banks and community kitchens who are helping keep the homeless and at-risk families fed during a second year of COVID-19 deserve a second helping of gratitude.

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• History San Jose CEO Bill Schroh Jr., for working to raise up communities whose histories in San Jose have not always been told. And a personal thank you to Schroh, Events Manager Steve Bright and emcee Lissa Kreisler for making this year’s Valley of Heart’s Delight dinner, where I was the guest of honor, a highlight of my year.

• Chris Wilder, the Valley Medical Center Foundation’s executive director, who suffered a debilitating stroke in March but continues to provide inspiration with every step of his recovery.

• And thanks to all of you, our readers in print and online, who make this a great community with a great story to tell. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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