High-octane retro holiday spirit is ready to ignite again as the third annual Rockin’ Holidays returns to Tenth Street Plaza in downtown Modesto.
The music and festivity-filled event kicks off Dec. 3 and then runs Thursday through Saturday nights through Dec. 23, promising the “Christmas of our youth and yesteryears” with music, old-style decor and a Rockin’ North Pole where Modesto’s histories of “American Graffiti” and rockabilly music collide.
The kickoff event follows a day of community yuletide festivities downtown, beginning with the annual Dickens Faire and continuing with the city of Modesto’s Celebration of Lights parade. Rockin’ Holidays begins at 7:45 p.m., after the “Miracle on 10th Street”-themed parade, with the lighting of the Rockin’ Tree and live music from the California 99ers.
“We remember the amazing Christmas holiday decorations of our youth and what downtown Modesto used to look like in the ’50s and the ’60s, and we wanted to bring that spirit back to downtown Modesto,” organizer Chris Murphy said in a press release. “We blended our rockabilly music history with our vintage decorations and Rockin’ North Pole was created on the Historic Cruise Route in downtown Modesto.”
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The multi-night celebration quickly became a favorite holiday destination for Modesto, with a variety of bands performing over the course of the run and Santa and his elves available for photos in his sleigh.
That sleigh is set up before a 25-foot cityscape and it’s not necessarily one that Rudolph and the rest of the reindeer gang might recognize: In keeping with the whole rock, hot rods and “American Graffiti” theme, “the sleigh is all turboed up with pipes and chrome and everything,” Murphy said.
The “American Graffiti” cruise theme will be seen over the Rockin’ Holidays area, with hub caps tied into the garland decor.
Oversized candy canes, presents and twinkle lights pepper the area, along with a 50-foot tree. While the festivities run just three nights each week, the Christmas tree will be the site of light shows from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. seven nights a week during the season, synced to holiday music – rockin’ holiday music, of course.
Murphy said the displays have become popular backdrops for families who stop by and take their Christmas pictures each year.
It’s all highlighted with a white Christmas – tough to do in Modesto, but Murphy promises flakes will fall over the whole rockin’ area with a snow show offered every half-hour. Snow-blowing machines will be mounted atop the Brenden Theatre marquee, Fuzio Universal Bistro and on the light poles, creating a winter wonderland in downtown.
All of the events, including photos with Santa, are free and open to the public.
Rockin’ Holidays is presented by ModestoView, Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group, Collins Electric, Modesto Toyota, Noah’s Water, Downtown Modesto Partnership, Modesto Confidential and Management Association, Modesto DID, Laser Voodoo, Fuzio, Brenden Theatres, Visit Modesto and the city of Modesto.
“It’s just a really cool team effort for the community,” Murphy said of those who come together to create the festivities.
Organizers work each year to add something new to the events, he said: Last year it was the 50-foot tree, this year it’s the nightly synchronized music.
“We just want to create a Christmas holiday playground for Modesto,” Murphy said. “We need more of this, where people are stoked about the city they live in.”
When: Kickoff 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, then 6-9 Thursdays-Saturdays through Dec. 23
Where: Tenth Street Plaza, Modesto