MERCED — For lovers of old cars, Modesto will be the place to be this weekend.
Our big-city neighbor to the north will be holding the American Graffiti Festival, and we can expect hundreds if not thousands of vintage vehicles in Modesto on Saturday and Sunday. It's a big deal and not one to be missed if you need an old car fix.
Coincidentally, this is the 40th anniversary of the movie "American Graffiti" a flick widely credited with fanning the fires of auto enthusiasm among impressionable young guys and gals decades ago. Moviemaker George Lucas will be the parade grand marshal.
A number of Merced-area auto buffs are planning to attend the festivities centered around the Modesto Junior College West Campus on Blue Gum Avenue, but said they expected that 106-degree temperatures may limit participation.
Many old cars and trucks don't have air conditioning, and the fragile and temperamental vehicles sometimes don't perform well in triple-digit temperatures. Still, I don't think a 106-degree mercury reading should keep you from having fun. That's when shade trees, hats, a little breeze and some cold beverages really are appreciated.
Diane Noya from Merced's Valley Vintage Car Club expects a handful of Mercedians to visit Modesto's Graffiti blast this weekend; last year close to 20 club members toughed it out in Modesto, and it was plenty hot.
Tracy Ledford of Winton, a member of the Valve Burners street rod group, has been to a number of American Graffiti shows in years past, dating back to the days when he was in high school. He drove his prize-winning Model A Ford coupe in the Graffiti parade and won a major award with it.
It's a pretty cool show, Ledford said. Last year they ran out of room for cars on the MJC campus, a sure sign of success.
Cindee Amis of Merced has attended the Graffiti shows before and said they are well-organized, fun events.
I remember attending a Graffiti event years ago on McHenry Avenue, before the show migrated to the college campus where it could be more easily controlled. The cruising along McHenry Avenue was nonstop and just barely civilized but there were plenty of gorgeous cars to see.
This is the 15th year of the annual festival, which includes a parade tonight in downtown Modesto as well as the shows from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at the MJC campus. Admission is $7 for spectators, with children under 12 admitted free.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or firstname.lastname@example.org.