MODESTO — George Lucas will make his first appearance as grand marshal of the downtown classic car parade in Modesto's annual Graffiti Summer festivities next year.
The 68-year-old Modesto native will ride in the head car June 7. The annual event celebrates Lucas' 1973 breakout film "American Graffiti," which was inspired by his experiences cruising around the city as a teen in the early '60s.
This will be one of Lucas' rare public appearances in Modesto. While he occasionally attends community events, including his 50th Downey High School class reunion over the summer, he maintains a low profile and avoids publicity.
John Sanders, chairman of the North Modesto Kiwanis American Graffiti Car Show and Parade, made the announcement about Lucas' participation in Graffiti Summer on Tuesday night at The State Theatre at the Modesto Area Music Association Awards.
"We're excited about the fact that he accepted the invitation to be the grand marshal of the parade," Sanders said. "The reason we're excited about it is it will give the citizens of his hometown the opportunity to honor him."
Lucas could not be reached for comment. After making "American Graffiti," he went on to create the wildly successful "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" films.
Wes Page, who attended Lucas' Downey High School reunion, said those in attendance didn't crowd the filmmaker and let him enjoy the event talking to his friends.
Page said he gets the impression that Lucas doesn't like taking center stage. "He does kind things without wanting accolades," Page said.
As an example, Lucas loans The State Theatre "Star Wars" prints once a year but he doesn't expect or want recognition for it.
Jennifer Mullen, chief executive officer of the Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Lucas was honored to be asked to be a part of the classic car parade.
"Maybe he has more time now," she said, explaining that he is retiring. "Maybe he always wanted to do it and has more time in his schedule."
She said Lucas was pleased with the work community volunteers did on Modesto's new historic Graffiti cruise route, which features kiosks on 10th and 11th streets that provide information about Modesto cruising history and Lucas' life and films.
A Kiwanis news release announcing Lucas' participation next summer noted, "The Modesto Historic Cruise Route was officially opened at the beginning ceremonies of the 2012 parade. It provides a walking tour of Modesto, its history of cruising, music, and the part played by George Lucas.
"Lucasfilm and the Lucas family worked closely on the Historic Cruise Route, and George Lucas made a promotional video for the tourist and historic attraction. Mr. Lucas also provided video for the Modesto Chamber of Commerce's 100th anniversary celebration."
Bee writer Lisa Millegan Renner can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2313. Follow her on Twitter @MilleganRenner.