Weather News

What this week’s rain means for outdoor festivities in Modesto and beyond

More rain is expected in the Modesto ares this week. People navigate downtown in the rain in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, May 14, 2019.
More rain is expected in the Modesto ares this week. People navigate downtown in the rain in Modesto, Calif., Tuesday, May 14, 2019.

Just in time for one of the most event-filled weeks in the Modesto area and the foothills comes the first rain of the month. It started coming down Wednesday morning and is forecast to continue on and off — mostly on — through early next week.

That said, organizers of most community festivities expect them to go on as planned. Those include Modesto’s Bike to Work Day and the Family Cycling Festival & Criterium, the Make Dreams Real benefit golf tournament, an American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the Oakdale Chocolate Festival, Modesto Porchfest, Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee, Columbia State Historic Park’s Diggins Tent Town 1852 and Sonora’s first Old West Fest.

There’s a 70 percent chance of showers in Modesto on Thursday, with thunderstorms also possible after 11 a.m., the National Weather Service says. Between a tenth and a quarter inch of rain is predicted.

“If the Masters can play in the rain, our golfers can,” organizer Annie Benisch said Wednesday morning of the golf tourney, happening Thursday at the Del Rio Country Club north of Modesto.

It will go on rain or shine, even hail, she joked, because the tournament takes pretty much all year to plan, and with all the “moving parts,” it would be nearly impossible to reschedule. “The only difference this year is I bought a lot of ponchos,” Benisch said.

Thursday also is Bike to Work Day in Modesto, including a 6:30 a.m. ride with Mayor Ted Brandvold from Village Baking Co. in McHenry Village to Tenth Street Place.

City spokesman Thomas Reeves said that the event will go on as planned, and that rain is more likely after workers’ morning rides are done. For those concerned about having biked to work only to have it raining when they’re set to ride home, he recommended catching a Modesto Area Express bus, all of which have bike racks.

In the Tuolumne County foothills, heavy rain was expected Wednesday night, the weather service said, with Sonora getting up to an inch. A 90 percent chance of showers Thursday and Thursday night could bring up to 1.5 inches more. Friday holds a 30 percent chance of showers.

Both of those days will bring school groups to Columbia’s annual living-history event Diggins Tent Town 1852, which runs through Sunday.

Sure, it could be muddy, but that’s what it was like in a real 1850s mining camp, park interpreter Kelly Leage said Wednesday. “We’ll be sloshing around a bit,” she said.

A little drainage canal has been dug right through the middle of the camp, so if rain is heavy, runoff will be carried away, she said, and kids can have a bit of fun jumping over it or floating things down it.

The Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee also has events Thursday through Sunday, and the weather service says rain in Angels Camp will be nearly as heavy as Sonora’s. But email blasts from the fair tell the public, “Don’t let a little rain in the forecast scare you away.”

Showers are likely through Thursday night in Modesto, too, but rainfall should be a quarter inch at most. Friday should be partly sunny, the weather service says. Saturday morning will remain partly sunny, but there’s a 30 percent chance of rain after noon.

Organizers of the 24th annual Family Cycling Festival have their fingers crossed that the clouds on Saturday don’t bust until later. “Certainly, wet roads could be a problem” for downtown racing, BMX stunt shows and the kids bike rodeo, Reeves said, “but we’re looking at the forecast and thinking it could be later in the day.”

Also in Modesto on Saturday is an American Cancer Society Relay for Life walk at Johansen High School from 9 a.m. until midnight. “They’ve done them in the rain in Seattle,” organizer Benazir Ali said Wednesday, so Modesto’s will go on as scheduled. Here’s hoping the rain that’s likely Saturday night doesn’t douse the flames in the powerful luminaria ceremony.

In Oakdale on Saturday and Sunday, it’s time for the 27th annual Chocolate Festival. The event, which organizers say draws in excess of 50,000 people, will go on no matter the weather. At least one festival fan said she won’t be deterred by rain. “The apocalypse would not come between me and chocolate,” Merced resident Sarah Langley posted on the festival’s Facebook page.

Saturday in downtown Sonora is the brand new Old West Fest, which will include live music, square dancing, other entertainment, “old-time food,” and historic displays and demonstrations. Sheala Wilkinson, special programs coordinator for the city of Sonora, said the forecast has changed nothing. “We will do this event rain or shine, though I would prefer shine,” she said via email.

Sunday in Modesto, the only big, outdoor community event is Porchfest, which features free performances by local musicians on home porches in the La Loma, college and downtown neighborhoods.

Rain won’t cancel the noon to 5 p.m. event, said Kate Trompetter, one of the organizers, but certainly no musicians will be required to participate. After all, she said, there are hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment and instruments involved.

Participation is being left up to musicians and porch hosts, she said. As of Wednesday morning, just one band had backed out. “But in the grand scheme of things, we’re planning 80 performances, so we’re not freaking out,” Trompetter said. Many of the porch performance areas are sheltered from rain, she added.

Hosts and performers are being asked to decide by Saturday morning if they’re pulling out, she said, “and we’re telling the community to check our website ( all the way up to Sunday morning for an updated schedule.”

The only event in the region that’s been reported postponed by the rain is Twain Harte a la Carte. It’s being rescheduled for Sept. 28. “We will work on it this summer to confirm the venue, probably the same,” Soroptimist International Twain Harte President Christine Ravely said in an email. “It’s no fun in the pouring rain. It’s happened before but we didn’t have knowledge of it coming when it did.”

Deke has been an editor and reporter with The Modesto Bee since 1995. He currently does breaking-news, education and human-interest reporting. A Beyer High grad, he studied geology and journalism at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.