MODESTO, Calif. — Classic cars and rock n’ roll are on the docket for the 21st annual American Graffiti Festival in Modesto.

“Our communities have really taken to this event,” said Brent Burnside, chairman of the festival. “We cherish it. We’re known worldwide – the birth of ‘American Graffiti’ here in Modesto.”

It's one of the biggest events in Modesto, so here's what you need to know:

What is the American Graffiti Festival?

The festival is a variety of vendors, musicians, history, and even a classic car show and parade cruise. In fact, according to Burnside, the car show and parade has attracted national attention and even drawn in entries from countries from as far as Australia.

As far as the name goes, it’s a reference to what some consider George Lucas’ cinematic masterpiece, “American Graffiti.”

“It basically starts back from George Lucas being from Modesto, a Downey High graduate, and the American Graffiti movie,” said Burnside. “It ended up being filmed in Petaluma, but it was based out of a lot of the Modesto area...”

The festival and parade are how many in the area kick-off the start of summer.

Things to do at the Modesto festival

For Burnside, this family-friendly festival is about letting people escape to the simpler time that was depicted in the movie.

1,500 cars registered for the show - Even walking through the lineup might take a couple of hours, Burnside said. These cars in the show are dated as 1979 or older, which helps bring in some newer generations of cars and motorcycles for the public to view.

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The 2018 American Graffiti Festival and car show at the Modesto Municipal Golf Course.
Courtesy: Kevin Scott, North Modesto Kiwanis Club

Vendors – 60 nonfood vendors and about 25 food vendors are queued for the event, including barbecue, ice cream, sausages, and a beer garden for people over 21.

American Graffiti Festival Parade - The car parade is a big cruise of classic cars and trucks. You might want to plan ahead; it's not uncommon to see spectators saving spots as early as 10 a.m. along McHenry Avenue, according to Burnside. The parade will take the following route:

  • Starts at 17th Street and I street
  • North on McHenry avenue to Briggsmore Avenue
  • U-turn on McHenry Avenue
  • Right onto J Street
  • South on 10th Street 
  • Left onto I Street
  • Left onto 17th street.

Concert series – Live music will be playing after the parade and throughout the next day. Performances include Journey Revisted on Saturday at 2 p.m, and Rock of Ages on Saturday at 12 p.m. Tribute will take the stage on Sunday at 11 a.m.

The American Graffiti era movies – The Modesto State Theater is also hosting an “American Graffiti month” where they’ll be playing movies from the American Graffiti era. Syncing up with the festival theme, they’ll be playing the movie “Sing-A-Long Grease.”

When is it?

The American Graffiti Festival is a multi-day event, with a parade on June 7 and the festival show on June 8 and June 9.

The parade starts at 6:30 p.m and runs from downtown to McHenry Avenue, Briggsmore Avenue, and then back to downtown.

The festival and car show days: 

  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 8  
  • 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 9

It will be located at the Modesto Municipal Golf Course on 400 Tuolumne Boulevard. Parking will be available on the west end access and people are free to park on the street if they can find space.

How much is it?

The parade is a free event, however, it will cost $10 at the gate for admission to the festival on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are also available online.

Children 12 and under are free.


The parade is will be cruising through a major road in Modesto and will cause some traffic impacts. 

McHenry Avenue will be closed from Briggsmore Avenue through downtown Modesto from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. on June 7.

Drivers are advised to take alternate routes.


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