Classic car takeover, Graffiti parade fills Modesto streets
It’ll be no Teslas allowed on downtown Modesto streets Friday night. Or any other cars made after 1979, for that matter.
That’s because classic cars once again will rule the road as the Graffiti Classic Car Parade revs back into Graffiti Summer. The Friday night cruise and attached weekend-long American Graffiti Festival, which celebrates its 21st anniversary this year, are both organized by the North Modesto Kiwanis Club.
The parade and festival, which attracts tens of thousands of spectators, are part of the annual month-long series of events called Graffiti Summer, centered around the valley’s classic car culture. The festivities also honor Modesto native son George Lucas’ seminal 1973 film “American Graffiti,” which was based on his teen days cruising Modesto in the early 1960s.
This year’s American Graffiti Festival could be its biggest yet, with up to 1,500 cars expected to take part in the car show — and most of them also will appear in the parade Friday.
While the parade starts at 6:30 p.m., the work of closing streets and preparing begins much earlier. North Modesto Kiwanis Club Parade Coordinator Charlie Christensen said if you’re not watching or taking part in the event it’s best to avoid the area due to high traffic congestion.
City streets will begin closing at 3 p.m. In downtown Modesto the parade route starts at Five Points, at the intersection of McHenry Avenue and 17th Street. From there, cars will turn north onto McHenry, turn around just south of Briggsmore Avenue in front of McHenry Village, and travel back down McHenry toward downtown.
The downtown loop will take the cars onto J Street, then left onto Tenth Street, left again onto 17th Street and back up McHenry. Briggsmore Avenue will remain open to traffic on the route’s northern edge, and Ninth Street will also be open on its southern edge.
This is the second year the parade route will take cars to just shy of Briggsmore Avenue. The parade was started in 2001 as a morning event through downtown, and has grown larger and shifted to the evening over the years. The parade is also the first unofficial cruising allowed in the city since the practice was banned in 1993 after previous Graffiti Night cruises became too large and violent.
Cars must be registered to be in the American Graffiti Festival car show to drive in the parade. Day-of registrations will be from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Modesto Clarion Inn, 1612 Sisk Road. Christensen said registered cars can typically begin queuing up for the parade at about 3:30 p.m. Participants must enter the route from the west side of Orangeburg Avenue no later than 6:15 p.m.
Spectators are welcome to line the sidewalks and the event is free to watch. Low-back chairs are encouraged, as is bringing food and other picnic items — just no alcohol, as this is a public and family-friendly event. Local restaurants will be open along the route to purchase food and drinks as well.
Christensen said cars in the parade typically do two to three laps, depending on the number of participants. Because the cars typically travel at least two abreast, drivers and passengers are discouraged from throwing candy or other items to the crowd as a safety precaution.
This year’s grand marshal is Peter Hischier Jr., a retired Modesto businessman known for the namesake nursery. Hischier was also an avid cruiser back as a teenager and is a classic car enthusiast now.
“Cruising was a big thing, and people came from all over to cruise in Modesto,” Hischier said in a release about the honor. “We had fun times.”
About 10,000 people are expected to come out and watch. The parade will wrap up at 8:30 p.m., and then crews will clean the streets. Most roads should reopen to traffic by 10 p.m., and an after party is planned at Tenth Street Plaza directly following the parade. J Street from 12th to 10th streets and I Street from 10th to 11th streets will remain closed until 11 p.m. for the after party.
The American Graffiti Festival will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Muni Golf Course, 400 Tuolumne Blvd. The festival will have more than 120 vendor and food booths, plus live music. Admission is $10 at the gate, kids 12 and under are free. The cars from the parade will compete in the car show, with awards handed out at 2 p.m. Sunday. Participants this year are coming from as far as Australia and Texas.