It’s Graffiti Summer again in Modesto

Crowds and cars were all the rage along Modesto's I Street last year.
Crowds and cars were all the rage along Modesto's I Street last year. Modesto Bee

Oh, how Graffiti Summer has grown.

What began with teens on the streets of Modesto and became famous on the big screen thanks to native son George Lucas has now evolved to become one of the city’s signature events. The monthlong celebration of cars, ’60s culture and “American Graffiti” returns bigger than ever this weekend.

This year’s packed schedule includes car shows, live music, movie screenings, sock hops and more. Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO and Executive Director Jennifer Mullen said that while individual activities are all run by different groups and organizations, a communal appreciation of car culture permeates the month. Car collectors from as far away as Oregon, Nevada and Texas come out to participate in the shows. And fans have come from as far afield as England and France to admire all the steel and chrome that converges on Modesto’s streets.

Conservatively, Graffiti Summer has grown to bring in about 20,000 people annually, Mullen said. This year, new events and expanded favorites should see those numbers continue to climb.

“We’ve seen it grow tremendously, not only by the number of cars but the number of spectators,” she said. “I honestly think one of the reasons is we have good groups. Even though they’re independent, there’s a cohesive spirit of working together. We have a number of events and a nice variety of events. Everyone embraces it. To me, that’s the beauty of it.”

New this year is an Elvis Presley tribute show at the State Theatre, a street party after the North Modesto Kiwanis Classic Car Parade and appearances by History Channel series “Counting Cars” star Roli Szabo at the parade and American Graffiti Festival.

Expanded this year will be the Hopping at the Hangar sock hop, American Graffiti Festival and Back to Graffiti, the city’s longest-running classic-car show. The Mid Valley Chevy Club’s week of Park ’n Shines stops for the first time at Vintage Faire Mall, which never has hosted a Graffiti event before. Mullen said all of the groups have reported that car registrations are ahead of this time last year for the shows.

The North Modesto Kiwanis club has moved its 17th annual American Graffiti Festival this year away from its longtime home of Modesto Junior College to the Modesto Municipal Golf Course near John Thurman Field. Kiwanis car show chairman John Sanders said the event outgrew its old venue and the new site gives it plenty of room to grow. Cars will be parked on fairways at the course, and more than 100 vendors will be set up amid the grounds.

“Car owners know we appreciate them coming to the event. They know it’s put on by a service organization and by volunteers,” Sanders said. “But most importantly, they know all the funds we raise go to about 50 charitable groups that we support over the years.”

This year, Sanders expects to have 1,200 cars in the two-day show June 13-14. The first year, there were 250 cars. Part of the festival’s appeal is the parade through downtown Modesto, which precedes the car show that Friday night. Sanders said participation in the parade is included with registration and some drivers come just to take part in the slow roll through downtown. Like last year, the route will loop vehicles through downtown and up McHenry Avenue.

For the first time the parade will start at Five Points, the intersection of 17th Street and McHenry Avenue, in front of the bronze Graffiti statue. The grand marshal will be retired Modesto businessman and vintage car collector Wendell Reed. Returning to the parade will be “American Graffiti” stars Candy Clark and Bo Hopkins. Also appearing will be Rock N Roli from the History Channel show “Counting Cars.” Modesto native and custom car master Gene Winfield will be at the festival chopping and modifying a car over the weekend as well.

This will be the second year honorees will be inducted into the Modesto Historic Cruise Route, which kicked off last year with an appearance by filmmaker Lucas. The ceremony will be held June 10 during the Mid Valley Chevy Club Park ’n Shine in at Tenth Street Plaza.

“Everyone works together for the same goal,” Mullen said. “They want to keep this history going.”

A schedule of events:

June 6

Graffiti Summer Kickoff: “American Graffiti” at the State: Ready for root beer floats, a costume contest and dancing in the aisles? Don your best duds from the 1950s and ’60s to enter a costume contest. Showtime 3 p.m. (doors open at 2 p.m.) Tickets: $3. State Theatre, 1307 J St. (209) 527-4697

So Good for the Soul: A Tribute to the Music of Motown: Performed by a cast of eight Broadway entertainers and their band, “Forever Motown” is a song and dance celebration. Show starts at 8 p.m. Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto. (209) 338-2100. www.galloarts.org.

Hopping at the Hangar sock hop: A fundraiser for the Central Valley Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force: $25 per person includes barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs. Dance to ’50s and ’60s music surrounded by classic World War II planes. No-host bar and soda fountain. Must be 21 or older to attend. No tickets sold at the door. June 20, 5 to 10 p.m. at Hangar 1-S, 700 Tioga Drive. For tickets, call (209) 605-4313.

June 7

10th annual Graffiti Classic Car Show: Modesto Area Street Rod Association’s 10th annual classic car show at the McHenry Village shopping center. Raffles; music by the Hot Rods Band. Free for spectators; car entry $25 in advance, $30 day of event (includes lunch for two). Sponsor awards and more. A portion of proceeds goes to local charities. For more, call Ray at (209) 521-6607 or go online to www.modestoasra.com.

June 8-11

Mid Valley Chevy Club Park ’n Shines: All car shows are free. They will be at a different location from 5 to 8 p.m. each day. Monday: American Chevrolet, 4742 McHenry Ave. Tuesday: Vintage Faire Mall, 3401 Dale Road. Wednesday: Downtown Modesto. Thursday: Cool Hand Luke’s 2505 Patterson Road, Riverbank. For more information, call the Mid Valley Chevy Club at (209) 499-2163 or go online to www.midvalleychevy.com.

June 11

MoBand Concert in the Park, “Cruise Control”: Spread out your blankets, bring a picnic and enjoy the sounds of MoBand. Admission is free, and the concert begins at 8 p.m. at Graceada Park. For more information, go online to www.moband.org.

June 12

Official North Modesto Kiwanis Classic Car Parade: The route starts in downtown Modesto to McHenry Avenue to Orangeburg and then back to downtown. The parade will feature close to 1,000 classic cars, hot rods and street rods starting at 7 p.m. To enter your hot rod, visit www.americangraffitifestival.com.

State Theatre Bebop Bar: Come in and cool off while watching the parade with the theater’s selection of fine wines, craft beers and signature cocktails. 6-10 p.m. State Theatre, 1307 J St., Modesto. Visit www.thestate.org.

June 13

An Elvis Tribute: The Modesto Elvis Tribute Show features award-winning Elvis tribute artist Rob Ely. Also performing will be Third Party, Triple D & The Sensations, Kent Witt & the Down Beats and Mike Allsup & Friends. Doors open at 6 p.m.; show at 7 p.m. General admission $15. State Theatre, 1307 J St. Call (209) 527-4697.

June 13-14

American Graffiti Car Show and Festival: This 17th annual event is presented by the North Modesto Kiwanis. The car show and festival run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Check out the classic cars, stroll through hundreds of food and vendor booths. Live music each day. Modesto Municipal Golf Course, 400 Tuolumne Blvd. All proceeds go to local charities. Call (888) 746-9763.

June 19 and 20-22

Annual Back to Graffiti at the Fruit Yard: The longest-running classic car show in Modesto kicks off at 9 a.m. with a 50/50 raffle, music, vendors and more. The Fruit Yard’s mesquite barbecue is available throughout the day. Threshold performs at 8 p.m. June 19. The Sensations perform from 1 to 4 p.m. June 20. The Fruit Yard, 7948 Yosemite Blvd., Modesto. (209) 577-3093.

June 20

Graffiti Night with the Modesto Nuts: Baseball combines with 1950s and 1960s music, root beer floats and contests as the Nuts take on the High Desert Mavericks. John Thurman Field. Game time 7:05 p.m. Fireworks after the game. Go online to www.modestonuts.com.

Sing along to “Grease” at the State: 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. There will be giveaways, drink specials and contests. Showtime 6:30 p.m. Tickets $5. State Theatre, 1307 J St. (209) 527-4697.

June 28

Eighth annual Rod & Custom Car Show: Classic cars and custom hot rods. Food and beverages. Proceeds to benefit Modesto Elks and Alzheimer’s Foundation. Admission is free. Car show starts at 9 a.m. Car registration is $25 in advance; $30 day of event and includes lunch. Awards presented at 3 p.m. Elks Lodge, 645 Charity Way, Modesto. Jerry Sauls, (209) 529-0366.