MODESTO — Summer Cortez, Samantha Anderson and Abraham Moshekh, all going into their junior year at Downey High, were pulling a wagon of iced, $1 bottles of water to raise money for their school's Key Club service organization. And, yes, all three were well of aware that they attend the grand marshal's alma mater.
"As Thomas Downey High School students, we're really proud to have someone so successful have graduated from our school," Summer said.
Generations removed from the early '60s of "American Graffiti," she admitted that when she hears Lucas' name, "I think 'Star Wars,' but I also think Downey. There's a lot of school pride."
Samantha was more of a Graffiti Parade person. "My family loves to come to stuff like this," she said.
And Abraham, never having seen "American Graffiti," still called Lucas "an amazing filmmaker" because of his blockbuster "Star Wars" films and his great contributions to movie technology. "I'm really proud to attend the same school he attended," Abraham said. And now having seen Lucas in the Graffiti Parade, he intends to see the movie that started it all. "I like greasers," he said.
Near the parade's starting point, 11-year-old Zack Eccleston of Tracy was sitting roadside with his big brother, Jason, and their mom, Bernadette. It was as clear as the "Star Wars" images on their T-shirts why the boys were there. Zack said he loves the movies, can't wait for the next one and was eager to see the man who created that galaxy far, far away.
And when did Zack learn about Lucas' Modesto history?
"Just now," he said. "I thought he lived in San Francisco. Now I see why Modesto is a big deal."
Yes, Bernadette admitted, "I failed in my motherly duties" in not earlier informing their boys that their hero hails from a city so very not far, far away.
She's a huge "Star Wars" fan, too, she said, adding, "It was amazing" to see Lucas cruise by.
"We were up there in the front row to see him. It was a huge deal."
At 12th and J streets, little 6-year-old Kalvin Jenkins of Modesto asked his dad a couple of times, "Where's George Lucas?"
The filmmaker was approaching, but Kalvin wasn't in a good position to see. Not that it really mattered, as he had no idea what Lucas looks like anyway. Sure knows who he is, though.
"The man who made 'Star Wars,' " he said quickly when quizzed. And? "A movie about old cars."
Verda Hightman, Modesto High Class of '59, and Sonny Garroutte, MHS Class of '61, are Graffiti Parade regulars. "We lived through it," Verda said. "We cruised ... 1958, '59."
Not quite that early for him, Sonny corrected.
They were there for the cars, but said Lucas' attendance was a bonus. "It's nice that he's here for this," said Sonny, who added that he never knew Lucas as a youth but dated a cousin of his. "He's important to us, but we didn't come out because he's here."
Tim Canterbury of Escalon came to the parade to ride shotgun with his friend, James W. Smith of Oakdale. Smith owns a 1965 Ford Cobra that sports snake-eye headlights, fangs in the grill and is the color burple (a bright bluish-purple).
From 1966-69, Canterbury cruised Modesto as a member of the Faros, a car club Lucas renamed "Pharaohs" in "American Graffiti."
"The movie portrayed us in a good light," Canterbury said. "I thought the movie brought a lot to the city and our car club. ... I think a lot of people owe him because he put Modesto on the map."
Photo Gallery: 28 images of George Lucas in Modesto
Photo Gallery: Sweet rides on parade route
Story: Sights and sounds
Story: Live blog recap