Petaluma honoring anniversary of 'American Grafitti'

May 17, 2013 6:42:14 PM PDT
The iconic movie "American Grafitti" is turning 40. The George Lucas film was done mostly in Petaluma where they're already partying to celebrate the anniversary at an event called "Return to Paradise."

It's a sight folks almost take for granted in Petaluma -- seasoned guys cruising seasoned roads in seasoned cars like Wayne Van Patten's 1967 Mercury Cyclone. "They only made 378 of them," he told ABC7 News, affirming that when people see his car around town, they know it's him.

Rare? Yes. And rarer still, is a certain movie they made around those parts. It's the 40th anniversary of American Graffiti. The George Lucas classic supposedly took place in Modesto, but Petaluma provided most of the locations and that's the reason for all the vintage metal rolling into town this weekend, including hot-rodders and car aficionados, all heading in to honor Petaluma then and now.

"I think Petalumans are very proud of their place in movie history," special effects artist Don Bies said. They're so proud, in fact, that over the few years, Bies, who worked for Lucas, has helped bring the original locations back to life. Early Wednesday morning, he and some other club members recreated the famous downtown drag race scene.

"When George shot it, it was shot so low budget. It was good that it was low budget because I think he had only one light. We only had one light," Bies said. The result was almost indistinguishable from the original.

Theoretically, they say it is possible to get a cruiser to leave his car, usually to fix a mechanical issue, but getting the love of cars out of a cruiser's blood is impossible. Around Petaluma, it's thicker than oil.


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