About 30,000 turn out to celebrate 'American Graffiti'

A bygone era of chrome and cruising came to life Saturday in downtown Petaluma as the city celebrated the 40th anniversary of the film "American Graffiti" and the now-vintage vehicles and street scenes that keep it a classic in the minds of many.

The daylong car show and evening cruise evoked strong memories for some of the film's biggest fans.

Jerry Causbrook was 11 in 1972 when director George Lucas came to town to shoot his coming-of-age movie, about four teenage friends in 1962 grappling with their plans for after high school.

Causbrook saw two of the most memorable cruising scenes being filmed. Now 52 and a classic car collector, he owns the 1967 Citroen 2CV driven by Richard Dreyfuss' character, Curt Henderson, in the movie. Along with two other vehicles used in the movie, the Citroen was on display Saturday, as was Causbrook's considerable affinity for "American Graffiti."

He knows most lines by heart and has been an actor and consultant for local re-enactments of the film.

"I've seen it probably 600 or 700 times," he admitted.

Now in its ninth year, Petaluma's Salute to "American Graffiti" drew an estimated 30,000 people downtown Saturday. About 370 classic cars and hot rods participated in the multi-day event, which included a Friday evening cruise and scholarship dinner for local students entering the automotive or film industries.

Rock 'n' roll tunes and the roar of engines made for an appropriate soundtrack during the show. It drew repeat visitors from as far away as New Zealand.

"We're hot-rodders," Heather Counsell said of her Kiwi clan, including a young son, daughter and husband, Craig, who said he'd been "obsessed" with the car scene since Lucas' film debuted on the island in 1974.

Tom Morrow, 59, said it brought him back to his young days racing hot rods. Now the Vallejo dad collects classic cars and attends shows, his foot a little lighter on the accelerator. His family took in the cruise Saturday in a sparkling blue and white 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air.

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