By February 10, 2021 Read More →

Interview: Chris Ricci-It’s Is A New Day In Modesto

InterView: Chris Ricci-It is a new day in Modesto  

By Chris Murphy

By the time you read this, we will have a new mayor and we can see how the City of Modesto will move forward. We have had a lot of tough times over the last year so say the very least, but with every challenge, there is an opportunity and a fresh point of view. 

I have known Chris Ricci for nearly 25 years.  We met when were raising money to rebuild the Graceada Park Playground in 1998 when our friends at B93.1 offered to present a free concert fundraiser.  Chris had been doing SummerFest and came down to do this show.  After the show, we went to El Faro, and talked about how great Modesto was and Chris thought it would be good idea to bring his event company to town. A couple of Summerfest and Extreme Halloweens later, Xfest would be launched along with JCD Concepts in 2000 and a huge Modesto music festival tradition began.  Over the years Chris has created many new events like LuckyFest and branched out into political consulting and became very active in Modesto politics.   Chris lives with his wife Kim and two kids in the College area and was just recently elected to Modesto City Council.   So let’s catch up with Chris Ricci. 

ModestoView:  You grew up on the Bay Area, your dad was in tech so how did you finally decide to call Modesto home? 

Chris Ricci:  My aunt and uncle lived in Modesto so I was familiar with it and always had a good time here. I enjoyed the people. When I wanted to launch an event company I decided on Modesto because there was so much support and opportunity here. That opportunity is still here and is just as easy to embrace as it was back in 1999.

MV: Your events like SummerFest, X Fest, Taco Fest and Lucky Fest attracted people from all parts of Modesto, both musically and ethnically, how do you feel we are doing in bringing our community together today, pandemic notwithstanding? 

CR: That’s really two questions because the pandemic has really shown us how great our community is.

SummerFest, X Fest, Taco Fest and Lucky Fest were unique in that they were designed to appeal to everyone and anyone. Before the pandemic, some really great things were starting to happen locally to bring people together and I’m hopeful that when it becomes safe again, people will get to creating again.

This once in a generation pandemic has brought huge challenges to all communities nationwide and Modesto is no different. What is clear here is the goodness of Modestans has shown through the last year, even while struggling with hard realities. There is good work happening at all levels, and amazing partnerships have formed. I am legitimately proud of the work that we are doing to help the community through COVID-19.

On the local business side, we had an open discussion at the Economic Development Committee last week where we were able to invite local restaurant owners, the CVB, and members of the public to discuss ways that the City of Modesto could help get us through the remainder of the pandemic. The conversation was productive, bipartisan, and cooperative. We came up with two recommendations, including an ordinance to lower fees for delivery apps to 15% from their current 30% that is going to council for vote on Feb 2nd. It’s actions like this that will continue to bring our community together.

We just need to keep reaching for great things and continue to cultivate projects and culture that appeal to the great diversity of our city.

MV:  How do we bring the different parts of our city together?

CR: Our City is coming together now to deliver coronavirus vaccines in an incredibly impressive way, and they need volunteers. You can sign up online. While we hear about many cities having logistical trouble vaccinating people, Modesto has actually been doing really well. Stanislaus County was allocated approximately 34,000 doses for Healthcare workers and those over 65 and has done that in their Scenic clinic (now moved to Modesto Center Plaza) and then to Stanislaus State. You can also make a Pharmacy appointment. Frankly, that is a lot better than other places.

My personal mission is move people into action through my 100 Ideas Campaign where I invite Modestans to choose a project that speaks to you and really lean in on it. That’s where the really interesting, fun and hard work is happening. By encouraging community members to get involved in something they are truly passionate about, we come together and gain so much. It’s all about creating opportunities for everyone to get involved. We all gain so much from the shared experience when we dig in together on what we care about. It’s that roll-up your sleeves and dig into work that really builds community. Chris.


MV: You have been an active and engaged citizen creating events and excitement, so how do you feel being part of new leadership for Modesto’s future?

CR:  Humbled and motivated by the opportunity, and excited to work with people one-on-one on the 100 Ideas Campaign. It turns out being a councilman and a producer require similar skill sets. It’s about building teams and excitement around ideas and finding new ways to solve old problems. There are so many ways we can build community, enjoy our city, and lift up areas and people that need it. We have a lot of untapped potential in our citizenry, and I’m looking to tap it.


MV: Teamwork is so key for anything, how do we bring teamwork to the forefront in our community?

CR:  I think it starts by picking up the phone. If I have learned anything in my very limited time as a councilman it is that most people generally agree on most things. We need to have honest conversations and really make a commitment to listen and to compromise and to act with the same mutual purpose of helping Modesto tap into its potential.

A lot of times though, it’s as simple as asking someone to get involved. All too often we don’t communicate to the people of Modesto that we need their help and when we do, we don’t ask enough people. Hey Modesto – if you’re reading this, get involved! If you need help finding ways to become more active in your community, reach out to me!


MV: You have had to fight for some of the things you are passionate about; so how can you help new entrepreneurs make their mark in Modesto?

CR: I might reframe that. You are right, Chris, anything worth doing is worth fighting for if you feel strongly about it – but I think we are all tired of the “fighting” rhetoric.

Modesto needs to be a place that is open and encouraging to new entrepreneurs. We have to do a better job of celebrating and supporting existing businesses and being helpful to new entities. Whether that means finding creative strategies to make Modesto a more appealing location for local businesses or just keeping a more open mind to new and changing entrepreneurial adventures – we as a council and as a city need to always act with a unified intent: “Will this make our city better?” If the answer is yes, we need to do everything we can to be supportive.


MV: Music and culture are such an important for our civic pride and our economy.  How do we make the arts and culture a key part of our daily life.


CR:  The great thing about Modesto is we already have so much to build on. From fine arts like Central West Ballet and the Modesto Symphony to all of the regular (in pre-covid times of course) bars and restaurants that host live music, to our ever-growing collection of murals, to upcoming Children’s and Car Museum, we’re not starting from anything.

We just have to continue to support these endeavors. Buy tickets. Talk to your friends. Pick up your monthly ModestoView! Share events on your social media. In general, we really just need to stop being so hard on ourselves as a city and take a minute to look around at the endless things to do and see. Here, too, is where my 100 Ideas Campaign comes in. It isn’t for me to decide, it’s for me to lift up these ideas, organize them and clear a pathway for my constituents to make Modesto the city they believe in. I want everyone to know Modesto is a place you can create what you want to see and it will be supported.


MV: There are many cities across the USA that thrive, what is one big change would you like to see to make us world-class?

CR: World Class cities don’t forget who they are. They understand their history, their environment and what makes them unique. The physical geography of Modesto is unique. Let’s revisit our Oak Woodlands, Riparian Wetlands, wild rivers and unique position on the Pacific Flyway. The McHenry Museum and the Great Valley Museum are already completely unique and couldn’t exist anywhere else. They need our support. We also need to work on making our communities more livable. Too many of our neighborhoods require hopping in the car to go anywhere or do anything. This is especially true with so much of our community shifting from offices to working at home. We need to encourage new developments that are coming in and redevelopments to have mixed commercial and multi-units in the same space. 

We also need to rebuild our civic pride and the best way I see to do that is through our Graffiti heritage. We have a limited window to bring it back or we risk losing it forever. We need to act before it is too late. 

Ultimately, though, I would change the way we perceive ourselves and the way we present ourselves as a city. We spend far too much time soaking up negative news and doomscrolling through our social media feeds looking for anything remotely bad that has happened. If we shifted that energy into sharing and experiencing all of the amazing things Modesto has to offer, if we put down our devices and stepped out of our houses (with a mask!) to look around at the community we live in – I think most folks would realize we are already well on track to be world-class.


MV: How do you think that we help and make real advances to deal with our homeless issues?

CR: First of all, as everyone knows, this isn’t just a Modesto problem. We need an expansion of mental health and substance abuses housing and treatment programs, we need to address unemployment, petty crime and increasing poverty valley-wide, and we need innovative solutions for the unhousable. The most encouraging thing about our homeless challenge is the diverse coalition that has come together to solve it, whether it is the State of California providing us with grant money (as they did this year), faith and community groups working tirelessly on solutions, or governmental committees that span the whole county. I have faith we’ll make progress because I know way too many people working way too hard to not help a whole lot of people.


MV: You communicated 100 great ideas for Modesto during your campaign, how do we make these things a reality?

CR: Yes! This is really the cornerstone my vision for building up our community. The 100 Ideas Campaign is about 3 things: collective action, shared experience, and successful outcomes;

1) Understanding that no one person is the solution here, it’s our collective action that is the solution,

2) more than anything it’s important to me for people to understand that we build community through shared experiences. 100 Ideas gives us the opportunity to build our own teams and lift up what we care about, not for someone else to do, but for us to do with the support of electeds like me.

3) Ultimately, you can say the 100 Ideas all submitted by Modestans run the gamut from cultural to program, from one-off capital improvements to long term program implementation. But more than anything, I want to see everyone involved get a win and experience success on something they care about that builds this City up.

If you see something that is already an idea, or if you have a great idea that we haven’t even dreamed of yet, reach out to me or to your council member. Start talking to your friends, your neighbors, anyone! Not every idea will work out, plenty of mine will probably end up in the can, but I will do everything I can to cultivate a culture of open-mindedness and support.

MV:  What do you think the misconception about Modesto area and what would you do to change that perception?


CR: The biggest misconception about Modesto is that it is unsafe. Crime in Modesto has been falling for years and yet when asked, over 70% of Modestans think the city is getting worse. As a city we have to dismantle perceptions like this that have literally no basis in reality. I’m trying to focus on lifting-up the positive. It starts with a firm commitment to reassess how we talk about our community from the top level – the folks in City Hall, our government agencies, and law enforcement have a duty to ask themselves, “Is this helpful? Does this accurately portray our community? Is this communication being made with good intentions to do right by our city?”

MV: And what is our greatest opportunity? 

CR: Modesto is basically a blank slate. The opportunity I came here for is still beating strong and I love that. This town has changed a lot over the past 30 years, but in a good way. What remains the same, and what ultimately is our greatest opportunity, is that the people here are genuine and have great ideas and most of us really believe in Modesto’s potential.

MV: Describe your ideal day in Modesto.

CR: Start off at the farmers market and walking the Virginia Corridor. Then in the evening, a stroll to Camp 4 for a glass of wine with my wife followed by tunes at the goat. 

MV: Beatles or Stones? 

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