While Graffiti Summer is all about the nostalgia of cruising along city streets, organizing Graffiti Summer is all about getting those cars parked and ready.
The annual celebration of steel and chrome returns in June. The citywide homage of Modesto native son George Lucas’ coming-of-age film “American Graffiti,” the annual festivities feature car shows, more car shows, a parade, music, movies, and yes, car shows.
But before anyone can answer the film’s signature tagline of “Where were you in ’62,” a lot of work goes in behind the scenes to make Graffiti Summer shift into full gear. A Graffiti Summer Committee meets once a month year-round to prepare for the event that draws around 50,000 people to the region, according to Jennifer Mullen of Visit Modesto. Mullen helps to coordinate the various events, which are organized by a variety of area service clubs, car clubs, area businesses and arts groups.
“Organizing Graffiti Summer is like organizing a convention. You walk in and go to a convention and think ‘oh, this is great.’ But you have no idea how much planning goes into it,” she said.
From the barricades needed to close down streets to the safety vests worn by volunteers to the car shops that detail and repair the vehicles, Mullen said Graffiti Summer must work like a fine-tuned machine to show off all the fine-tuned machines.
“Truly the cars are the stars. We make sure they’re given the best treatment, parked properly and are comfortable and safe,” Mullen said.
About 500 to 600 volunteers help run the events which attract more than 2,000 registered participants.
Many of the groups involved in Graffiti Summer have decades-worth of experience including the Fruit Yard which will host the 24th annual Back to Graffiti at the Fruit Yard on June 17, North Modesto Kiwanis Club which will hold its 19th annual American Graffiti Festival & Car Show on June 10-11, the Modesto Area Street Rod Association which will have its 12th annual Graffiti Classic Car Show on June 4, the Modesto Elks Lodge which hosts its 10th annual Rod & Custom Car Show on June 25 and the Mid Valley Chevy Club which holds its annual week-long series of Park-n-Shine shows on June 5-8.
North Modesto Kiwanis Club Graffiti Festival chairman Brent Burnside said their events, which also include the popular classic car parade through downtown Modesto and up McHenry Avenue on June 9, are the group’s largest fundraisers for the year. Around 1,200 are expected to participate this year and festival and parade regulars like “American Graffiti” stars Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins and custom car wizard Gene Winfield will attend again. Longtime festival and parade chairman John Sanders, who retired from organizing the event last year, will be honored as grand marshal.
“It’s all about our local cars. They work hard on them,” Burnside said. “This just generates a good old-town feel. People get to come out watch some really nice cars.”
Of course, there is more to do than just watch cars. The State Theatre will screen the movie that started it all June 3 and a sing-a-long version of “Grease” on June 17. Each Friday and Saturday night the A & W Drive-In hosts Graffiti-themed karaoke and Elvis impersonators. The newest members will be inducted to the Graffiti Walks of Fame on June 7 as part of the Historic Graffiti Cruise Route presentation. And the Modesto Nuts hosts a Graffiti Night on June 10.
Still, everyone knows without the cars they wouldn’t be there. Ray Lee, chairman of the Modesto Area Street Rod Association’s Graffiti Classic Car Show, said being part of Graffiti Summer is in the group’s DNA. Their club attracts 500 cars to the McHenry Village for its annual event.
“We are all local street rodders and (our club) has been in the Modesto area since 1975,” Lee said. “It’s important to us to be part of the car culture. All of us kind of grew up around that. It’s important and fun for us.”
Friday and Saturday nights, all summer:
A&W Root Beer, 1404 G. St.: Classic cars, Hula Hoop contests, karaoke and root beer floats served by car hops on roller skates.
Wednesday nights, all summer:
Velvet Creamery, 2204 McHenry Ave.: Classic car show, activities, raffles.
“American Graffiti” screening: Don your best duds from the late ’50s or early ’60s, or dress as your favorite character from “American Graffiti,” George Lucas’ coming-of-age film. 2 p.m. State Theatre, 1307 J St. Tickets $3. For more, call 209-527-4697.
Graffiti Classic Car Show: Modesto Area Street Rod Association’s 12th annual event with live rockin’ oldies by the Hot Rods Band, raffle drawings all day, dignitary awards and trophy sponsor awards. Also celebrating 50 years of the Camaro. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. McHenry Village Shopping Center. 209-521-6607 or visit www.modestoasra.com.
Mid-Valley Chevy Club: Free car shows daily from 5 to 8 p.m. at different locations. Monday: American Chevrolet, 4742 McHenry Ave.; Tuesday: Vintage Faire Mall, 3401 Dale Road; Wednesday: 10th Street Plaza, 1010 10th St., downtown Modesto (cars staged in the parking lot at 11th and K streets); Thursday: Cool Hand Luke’s, 2502 Patterson Road, Riverbank. 209-499-2163 or visit www.midvalleychevy.com.
Graffiti Cruise Route Presentation: Legends of the Cruise Route presentation honors new inductees into the Walk of Fame. 7-10 p.m., 10th Street Plaza, 1010 10th St. www.modestocruiseroute.com
Official Kiwanis Classic Car Parade: Route travels through downtown Modesto, then from McHenry Avenue to Orangeburg Avenue and back downtown. Features thousands of classic cars, hot rods and street rods. Begins at 6:30 p.m. www.americangraffitifestival.com.
Downtown Cruise-In: Immediately following the Classic Car parade, hang out in downtown Modesto on the Historic Graffiti Cruise Route. Live entertainment including a tribute to Chuck Berry. Special parking for classic cars. Call 209-529-9303.
Modesto Nuts Graffiti Night: Enjoy baseball as the Modesto Nuts take on the Stockton Ports; also classic cars, 1950s-’60s music, root beer floats and contests. Game time 7:05 p.m., fireworks after the game. John Thurman Field, 601 Neece Drive. www.modestonuts.com or 209-529-0366.
The Doo Wop Project: Featuring current and former stars of “Jersey Boys” and “Motown: the Musical” performing classic songs. 8 p.m. Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St. 209-238-2100 or visit www.galloarts.org.
American Graffiti Car Show and Festival: 19th annual event presented by the North Modesto Kiwanis. Check out the classic cars, visit Gene Winfield as he chops a car, stroll through hundreds of food and vendor booths and listen to live music throughout the festival. All proceeds go to local charities. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 10, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 11. Municipal Golf Course, 400 Tuolumne Blvd. 888-746-9763 or www.americangraffitifestival.com
24th annual Back to Graffiti at the Fruit Yard: Longest-running classic car show in Modesto commemorates George Lucas’ “American Graffifi.” With raffle prizes, music, vendors and more. 9 a.m. The Fruit Yard, 7948 Yosemite Blvd. Free. 209-577-3093.
“Grease” Singalong: Dress up as your favorite character from the film, compete for prizes and dance in the aisles with Rydell High’s most famous graduating class. With giveaways, drink specials, contests and prizes. 3 p.m. State Theatre, 1307 J St. Tickets $5. 209-527-4697.
10th annual Rod and Custom Car Show: Classic cars and hot rods. Music, food and beverages available for purchase including breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m. Proceeds benefit Modesto Elks. Free admission. Car show starts at 9 a.m., awards presented at 3 p.m. Elks Lodge, 645 Charity Way. 209-529-0366.