Issue 34pulse

Graffiti: Continuing the Tradition

American Graffiti

By Jacqui D. Sinarle

If there’s one celebration that’s uniquely Modesto, it’s Graffiti.

Every year, local residents have looked forward to Modesto’s annual Graffiti Summer, which combines cars and music in a fun family environment. Today, Graffiti activities are more numerous than ever and attract people from across the country, a positive indication that the celebration will continue for generations to come.

“My earliest memories of Graffiti Night are when my dad would park his truck on 10th Street earlier in the day and save a spot on the curb for us for when the cruising started,” recalled Brent Burnside, past president of North Modesto Kiwanis and event chair of the group’s American Graffiti Festival last year and this year.

American Graffiti celebrates Modesto’s classic car culture and a simpler time…It’s our goal to keep newer generations involved so we can share the spirit of Graffiti as a family with our kids, parents, and grandparents.


“I’ve always loved the noise, the rumble of the cars running, the smell of gasoline and horsepower,” Burnside said. “Back in the day, the cars would come out and start cruising that weekend. Graffiti meant the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.”

The North Modesto Kiwanis Club—a not-for-profit, community-based service organization—has done its part to keep the Graffiti tradition vibrant. This is the 20th year the group has presented the American Graffiti Festival, which includes the free Classic Car Parade, which begins at 6:30 p.m. on Jun. 8, and the American Graffiti Festival and Car Show, scheduled for Jun. 9 and 10 at Modesto Municipal Golf Course.

Funds raised from the car show make up about 70 percent of the North Modesto Kiwanis’ nonprofit budget, which the club donates to support
community programs.

“The North Modesto Kiwanis present the parade and car show with help from volunteers from more than a dozen nonprofit organizations,” Burnside said. “We have got one of the most giving communities in California! Everyone involved in the effort—from the City of Modesto to members of our local government to the Modesto Police Department—works hard to make Graffiti an exciting, safe, and fun family event.”

In 2017 the American Graffiti Car Show drew 1,330 classic vehicles from throughout the U.S., and nearly 1,000 of the registered vehicles participated in the Classic Car Parade.

Organizers keep the Graffiti tradition alive by including both crowd-pleasing favorite activities and new features.

“In addition to showcasing classic cars in the Festival and Car Show, we’ve introduced a ‘new era’ section for cars newer than 1979 that gives kids the opportunity to show their own cars,” Burnside said.

This year’s Festival and Car Show also includes vendors, food, surprise guests, and musical entertainment, including the band Journey Revisited and classic sock hop music.

“American Graffiti celebrates Modesto’s classic car culture and a simpler time,” Burnside reflected. “It’s our goal to keep newer generations involved so we can share the spirit of Graffiti as a family with our kids, parents, and grandparents.”

Modesto will celebrate Graffiti with a variety of events throughout the month of June 2018.

For more information about the North Modesto Kiwanis American Graffiti Parade and Festival/Car Show, visit For additional events presented by other organizations, check out the Graffiti Summer Calendar at

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