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BigView – Modesto in the 2000s

The BigView
The 2000s
By Chris Murphy

Modesto USA really lit up during the 2000s. As the new millennium began, Modesto celebrated New Year’s Eve in downtown, with a Beatlemania concert and a fireworks display that was one of ModestoView’s first live webcasts. There was a lot of excitement and optimism in our community as live music really began to blossom, our local radio stations were playing the songs of Flying Blind, Matt Nathanson, Megan Slankard and others that called Modesto their musical home base. There was a generation of families with kids listening to a common soundtrack. My girls were the perfect age during the 2000s and we all had a lot of fun.

The new Graceada Park playgrounds had attracted the families back to our newly restored central park and there was a new energy in volunteerism, creating new civic organizations and in 10th St Place, something called the Tuesday show. Street festivals like X Fest brought thousands of our people together and a new and energized art scene thrived with the many new restaurants in downtown and all over our city. I loved this time in Modesto when my girls were growing up, riding our bikes to Ridgway’s on a Saturday morning and checking out Music on 10th St with Flying Blind and many others. There was so much amazing music, Chris Ricci and I mused over lunch at Harvest Moon how to celebrate this talent, and the Modesto Area Music Awards were born, our first event at Club Max at the Doubletree. The MAMAs have been celebrating our local music culture every year and this year, we are working on a virtual option. Throughout the decade, there were so many great projects, family times and experiences. Mark Hamill would visit in 2005 for a Star Wars Premier, Carol Channing moved to Modesto, the Gallo Center was built, and MoBand would continue to be part of our traditions.

Modesto Rocks for Red Cross
On September 11, 2001, our world was rocked and the world reacted when New York and Washington DC were attacked. The outpouring of grief and desire to help was global and here in Modesto, our local music community quickly gathered to raise money for Red Cross. ModestoView and Anastasia Rego would gather Grandaddy, Scenic Route, Puffin Billies, Anne Loureiro with donated a PA system, 1Ž2 from Flying Blind and 1Ž2 from Charybdis, and girl scouts selling cookies and T-shirts would help raise $15,000

The 2000s started off fast as a result of many big projects in the 1990s. A lot of this was the smart planning in the 1990s by the City and the County working together and this set the stage for new opportunity. This harmony didn’t last long as Carmen Sabatino was elected Mayor of Modesto defeating Dick Lang and served one term. Many good relationships between the city and the county unraveled and a normally congenial operations of the city disintegrated, with the city ultimately backing out of the Gallo Center and rejecting funds for a major renovation of 9th Street when the tracks came out. Fortunately, Modesto City staff welcomed citizen participation and projects like the Tidewater Central Rail Banking project were approved that would lay the foundation for the Virginia Corridor. Jim Ridenour would be elected in 2003 and would serve two terms and begin to rebuild community connections and order to the council meetings.

Life became a lot more active in the 2000s. Downtown was a major draw, MoBand Concerts In the Park were attracting thousands of people and a shadow gathering in Graceada Park attracted thousands of teens and was quite the organic event and place to be seen. The City of Modesto would embrace this event and provide activities. The big event of the 2000s would be the groundbreaking and the construction of the Gallo Center for the Arts. Fundraising began in 2001 and the center would open to huge fanfare in 2007 with an inaugural opening line up with Patty LuPone, Tony Bennett and even a special presentation of the MAMA Awards. The Gallo Center has changed our community and has cemented our role as a performing arts city, building on the work of the Modesto Performing Arts, Prospect Theatre and more. Downtown Modesto was a draw for all ages, with the Queen Bean opening with open mic nights, and even some 18 and over dance clubs. Many of these clubs and the 21 and over would see scrutiny and aggressive enforcement of nightlife began to surface toward the end of the decade. On TV, James Marsters made Modesto proud with his regular role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Today, he continues to star on Hawaii Five O.

Festivals were part of the fun of the 2000s. X-fest began in 2000 and created an amazing smorgasbord of music, with local bands sharing the stage with national acts. The ModestoView live cam was at all of the early X-Fest that hosted amazing bands and was one of the events that drew people from all parts of our area. You could enjoy up to 80 bands on 20 stages all in one night for $25. It is sad that this event isn’t still with us. B93 Summerfest was a huge traditional family oriented favorite moving from CSU Stanislaus to John Thurman Field and even a stint at the Fruit Yard, with a stage that is located where the current amphitheater is today featuring national headliners like Lifehouse, Everclear, Vertical Horizon, Train, Gavin DeGraw alongside regional favorites. The Modesto Art and Wine festival would make a good run in downtown during the 2000s art era where many galleries opened downtown and the 3rd Thursday Art Walk was very popular. Tresetti’s Fat Tuesday, and other 11th Street parties outside the Fat Cat delivered regular entertainment.

Graffiti Celebration
During the 2000s Modesto would start to get its Graffiti mojo back again. The North Modesto Kiwanis club presented the American Graffiti Festival and cars and fans from all over the world would descend on Modesto USA for Graffiti Summer. After a couple if really successful events at MJC, the Cruise would return to downtown Modesto as an organized cruise parade. The stage was set to start to make Graffiti a big part of Modesto’s identity after being banished to the wilderness during the late 90s. The number #1 requested information at the Modesto Convention and Visitors Bureau would be about American Graffiti and classic cars. We started talking about building a Graffiti Museum back then, but it took us until this year to make it a reality.

For 67 years, the Modesto Relays meet was held at Modesto Junior College in Modesto, California, a track notable for tight turns and long straightaways, ending in 2008. During its run in Modesto, it was the site of over 30 world records. After taking the 2009 season off, the meet moved to Hughes Stadium at Sacramento City College. During the 2000s, high school water polo and cross-country teams were very successful regionally and across the state. There were new cross-town rivalries as Enochs and Central Valley high schools opened and Central Catholic would start to become a powerhouse. Still the big games were the Modesto / Downey game and the Modesto / Turlock. The traditional rivals had the Modesto High Black Hole and the Downey White Out and were bold and vocal at the football and basketball games. The MJC Turkey Trot became a big Thanksgiving family gathering with kids home from school and a fall run along Legion Park was the perfect warm up for a large Thanksgiving dinner.

Meet Virginia
This was a really exciting project that came right on the heels of the Graceada Park and Playground renovation. The Tidewater Central railroad tracks that bisected Modesto where to be removed and a group of us teamed up with the City to “Rail Bank” this space to preserve the open space left by rail removals for non-motorized use as a bike and foot trail. This effort was championed by Royal and Liz Robbins and a great team effort made it happen with great support from Fred Allen, Bob Ford & Jim Niskanen. The project received significant funding from grants and funding from then Senator Barbara Boxer. This project was soon adopted by the Rotary Clubs of Modesto and the Virginia Corridor came to life with a lot of hard work, creativity and community dedication and it continues to evolve today, connecting our community.

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About the Author:

Chris Murphy is the President and CEO of Sierra Pacific Warehouse Group and Publisher and Founder of ModestoView Inc. Chris worked globally in the cycling industry returning to Modesto in 1996. He is also the founder of the Modesto Historic Graffiti Cruise Route, Legends of the Cruise Walk of Fame, Modesto Rockin’ Holiday, the Modesto Music History Organization and co-founder of the Modesto Area Music Association. Chris is married to his artist wife Rebecca since 1985 and has two daughters Madison and Abigail, both graduating from Modesto High and UC Berkeley. He is lead singer and guitarist for his band, Third Party that donates their performances to non-profits.