American Graffiti

Modesto celebrates classic cars with the biggest Graffiti parade to date

See classic cars in Modesto’s biggest Graffiti parade ever

The North Modesto Kiwanis Club organized the Modesto’s annual Graffiti Classic Car Parade and this weekend’s American Graffiti Festival.
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The North Modesto Kiwanis Club organized the Modesto’s annual Graffiti Classic Car Parade and this weekend’s American Graffiti Festival.

More T-Birds! More Cadillacs! More Impalas! Oh my!

The most cars ever registered to take part in Modesto’s annual Graffiti Classic Car Parade this year, as spectators enjoyed unseasonably cool weather Friday night. The North Modesto Kiwanis Club organized the cruise and this weekend’s attached American Graffiti Festival.

Some 1,455 cars registered, a few coming as far away as Australia and Texas, according to event chairman Brent Burnside. But the vast majority of the participants, and spectators, were locals who came out to marvel at the classic cars or relive old memories. According to the Modesto Police Department, some 25,000 people came out to watch the free community event.

Modesto couple Bobby and Dynette Royal have been coming to Graffiti Summer events — which celebrate the valley’s car culture and native son George Lucas’ seminal film “American Graffiti” — for years. They’ve taken part in the parade the last five years in their cherry red 1969 Road Runner. The parade is only open to cars from 1979 or older.

“This is part of my childhood. I grew up here cruising McHenry and then cruising 10th Street — or “Drag 10th” as we called it,” Dynette Royal said. “It’s just part of Modesto.”

Like many other spectators, the Royals staked out a spot early. At noon Friday, several folding chairs and blankets were placed along the downtown route. People lined up and down the 4.5-mile route, which looped through downtown Modesto and up McHenry Avenue to just shy of Briggsmore Avenue and back.

The parade brought sanctioned cruising back to Modesto city streets in 2001, after being banned in 1993 after previous Graffiti Night cruises turned violent. Since then, it has grown and expanded. The event’s reputation brought first-time attendees Gilbert and Carol Nunez to Modesto from their home in Lockeford, near Lodi.

The couple came on a special trip to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Gilbert Nunez, the car enthusiast in the family, admitted to leaving out some crucial details to his wife when planning the visit.

“He tricked me; he said it was a parade but not a car parade,” Carol Nunez said. “But I wasn’t expecting this many cars. Like, wow, this is exciting.”

Modesto-based Elvis impersonator George Zavala came out in full regalia to high-five and fist-bump with folks as they cruised by him on lower McHenry.

“I love it; it brings out all kinds of different families and all these kids,” he said. “Hopefully, the next generation likes it and it goes on and on and on.”

The festivities continue this weekend with the 21st annual American Graffiti Festival at the Muni Golf Course, 400 Tuolumne Blvd. All the cars from the parade and some 120 vendor booths will take part in the event, which runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 at the gate; kids 12 and under are free.

For more information on area Graffiti Summer events, call 888-746-9763 or visit

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Marijke Rowland writes about new business, restaurant and retail developments. She has been with The Modesto Bee since 1997 covering a variety of topics including arts and entertainment. Her Business Beat column runs midweek and Sundays. And it’s pronounced Mar-eye-ke.
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