For The Madera Tribune
The 2018 Chowchilla Spring Festival grand marshall, Bob Silva, is pictured with his 1930 Ford Tudor.
Bob Silva, a former 40-plus-year resident of Chowchilla, was selected as the 2018 Grand Marshall to reign over the Spring Festival Celebration this week in Chowchilla. The event is held in conjunction with the Chowchilla-Madera County Fair that began Thursday and runs through Sunday.
The Spring Festival began in 1946 and has become a tradition in the area. The festivities include a parade, a deep pit barbecue and a queen coronation.
For many years Silva escorted the parades’ Grand Marshall down Robertson Blvd. in his 1923 Ford Model T. This year Silva will ride in a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Retractable Hardtop Convertible driven by Lowell Merriam.
Silva was born in Los Banos, grew up on a dairy and graduated from Los Banos High School in 1963. After high school he served in the US Army. When he was discharged from the Army he returned home and worked with his dad on the dairy.
Silva said he knew he didn’t want to milk cows the rest of his life. He had always enjoyed working on go carts and hot rods. His passion for cars led him to a job with Toscano Ford in Los Banos which set the stage for a life-long career in the car business.
In 1973, Silva joined forces with Dick Wheeler and bought the Ford Dealership in Chowchilla from Lou Spasovich. Wheeler retired about 25 years later and Silva-Wheeler Ford became Bob Silva Ford. In later years Bob Silva Ford moved to Madera.
Silva was a natural-born salesman who believed in the Ford product. He was committed to the Ford Company and his customers. But Silva also believed in the community of Chowchilla. He was active in various organizations and supported youth programs.
Silva was a member of the Chowchilla Rotary Club and was a Chowchilla Chamber Commerce Board member.
Silva’s two sons, Scott and Shaun, graduated from Chowchilla High School. They were active in sports while growing up, and their dad supported their endeavors. He served as president of the Chowchilla Union High School Athletic Boosters Club. He also coached youth soccer. In fact, he along with Tom Turk, Glenn Seymour, Bennie Curutchet and Skip Pettitt, were instrumental in starting the youth soccer program in Chowchilla.
Over the years, Silva sponsored numerous youth soccer, Little League and girls softball teams. Silva-Wheeler Ford was the first dealership to donate a car for Chowchilla Sober Grad and continued with the program for many years. He even donated a car for Madera High’s Sober Grad one year. The dealership also provided cars for the hole-in-one prizes for golf tournaments sponsored by the Chamber and Athletic Boosters.
Silva could always be counted on to provide cars to be used in various area parades for grand marshals, queens and other dignitaries.
His community spirit didn’t end with cars. He often donated raffle prizes to community organizations. Many will remember the signed baseballs, autographed photos and tickets to Giants games.
Silva believed in the values of FFA and 4-H. He supported the members of each organization when it came time to sell their animals at the fairs.
Silva never hesitated to help a worthy cause. In 1976, Wheeler and Silva donated the use of 4-wheel-drive trucks to help look for the victims of the infamous Chowchilla school bus kidnapping.
Bob Silva always had an abundance of energy. He had vision and was not afraid to think out of the box, to try a new approach to support the community’s youth or promote Chowchilla. Silva’s enthusiasm and belief in Chowchilla definitely made a difference.
Bob and his wife, Linda, are now living in Cambria. He says he is now taking the time to smell the roses. That does not mean he is idly sitting around. Once a car dealer, always a car dealer. He is still in the car business, Bob Silva Auto Sales, in Cambria, as a new-car broker and wholesale dealer. But they do take time to walk on the beach, enjoy traveling, and participate in car shows with his 1956 Thunderbird and 1930 Tudor. He said they have seven grandchildren and are enjoying life.
“I am honored to be named as the 2018 Spring Festival Grand Marshall,” stated Silva. “What has always made Chowchilla so special are the people.”
The Spring Festival Parade will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in Chowchilla.