Pat Clark

Modesto deserves something grand, so enjoy it

Yes, yes, I know. You're weary of reading about the Gallo Center for Arts.

I'm venturing a guess that even the people behind the new performing-arts center are ready to take a little break from the whole extravaganza.

But allow me a few more lines because last Thursday night's gala grand-opening celebration was something rare for me. It was a much-hyped moment in time that didn't end up secretly disappointing me.

Deep down, I'm kind of hard to please. Maybe I have a rampant imagination that conjures amazing things that simply can't be fulfilled. Or maybe I'm just a shrew.

Either way, I've looked forward to a lot of events, private and public, that I've nodded and smiled through, but inside felt kind of deflated by in the end.

The Gallo gala was a resounding exception. Not only was I not disappointed, my expectations were surpassed.

Maybe I just don't get out to enough black-tie events. Or any. But to say it was lovely would be a gross understatement. The center itself is magnificent to behold. Last Thursday night, it looked like something from a movie. The setting was perfect with its black tablecloths, candles and lovely floral displays.

And the people who came out to support the center certainly did it proud. Modesto dressed to the nines, filling the lavish setting with characters who absolutely looked the part.

Being a native of Modesto, darned if it didn't make me tear up a little.

I remember when anything not far east of McHenry Avenue was considered the country. I watched downtown turn into a no-man's land when the mall moved the city's retail hub west of town. I also watched as the community pulled up its collective bootstraps and turned the whole thing into the place it is today -- a place to be proud of -- all despite a lot of unfortunate and tragic events that marred the public perception of Modesto far beyond its borders.

But as much as I herald Modesto's evolution from small town to thriving city, I guess I still have an underlying sense of little girl's shock when great things happen here. I guess I also have a subconscious small-town feeling that we can have nice things, but maybe not grand.

Wrong. Grand is here.

We've had our share of top-notch national entertainers make their way through the city. We also have some amazing companies and groups based right here. Now, the number of entertainers coming through town will multiply and those folks already here have a state-of-the-art place to showcase their talents.

Yes, you've read much about the Gallo Center for the Arts. A lot of people are sick of it and some really don't see its worth: Spend the money on improving roads, more police, more fire protection, they say.

But consider the economic possibilities a large performing-arts center could afford. People who once traveled to San Francisco, Sacramento and the like to be entertained, people who took their dollars to restaurants and hotels and retailers there, will stay here far more often. And people from other cities will be attracted by entertainers at the Gallo Center and will bring their dollars to restaurants, hotels and retailers here in Stanislaus County.

OK, so some people won't use the center. But legions of others will.

So I ask this: Why shouldn't Modesto have something lovely, something grand? Why shouldn't we aspire to more?

Both the woman I've become and the small-town little girl inside think we should. I think we have.

And I can't wait to go back and see another show.

Scene editor Pat Clark can be reached at