IT WAS ALMOST 6:30 p.m. in the evening, when Andrew Candelario decided to give his car a quick final dusting before cruising through the streets of Downtown Modesto. His 1970 model Chevy El Camino, parked at the intersection of 10th and J streets, was one of hundreds of classic cars lined up on the streets waiting to roll. The El Camino, previously owned by his grandfather, was passed down to Candelario after his grandfather’s passing in 2006.
At least a thousand classic and custom Chevys, Fords, Volkswagens and more took over the streets of Modesto as the American Graffiti Festival and Car Show returned to the city for its 24th year. Thousands of spectators lined up along the streets of Downtown Modesto to watch the parade of cars cruising by.
Just two cars behind Candelario was Frankie Smith’s 1963 4-door lace-top Impala in which he patiently waited alongside his partner Laura Gilstrap and their two girls. Smith said he had taken the car completely apart and rebuilt it just a few years ago. It was his fifth year in the parade.
Among the spectators on the sidewalk was Whitney Dennehy, who was born and raised in Modesto, and has attend the car show every year since age 2. She brought her two sons to the event, where Dennehy said she found a sense of community.
The annual event is a nod to the 1973 film ‘American Graffiti,’ written and directed by George Lucas. The movie is set in early 1960s Modesto, where Lucas spent his teen years. Lucas was born and raised in Modesto and was the Parade Grand Marshall in 2013.
Harika Maddala is a photojournalist based in Stockton covering San Joaquin County for Bay City News Foundation and its nonprofit news site Local News Matters. They are a Report for America corps member and a CatchLight Local Fellow.