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MODESTO, CA (APRIL 16, 2021)————The Gallo Center for the Arts’ board of directors has named Chad Hilligus as the non-profit organization’s new chief executive officer effective July 23, succeeding the retiring Lynn Dickerson.  Hilligus comes to the center from Performance Santa Fe, a multi-venue performing arts organization in New Mexico where he has served as executive and artistic director since 2019.


Said Gallo Center board chair Evan Porges, “After a nationwide search, our board and its search committee are thrilled that a candidate of Chad’s background and talent will be taking the helm of the center.  Obviously replacing Lynn was a daunting task, but thanks to a comprehensive selection process we believe Chad is the right person to follow her.  As sad as we are to see Lynn retire, we are excited for the future with Mr. Hilligus.”


Hilligus’ experience includes five years, 2014-2019, as director of major gifts at the non-profit McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California.  While at the McCallum, Hilligus also was engaged in programming, talent acquisition, contract negotiations, budgeting and producing special events.  Prior to that, he spent three years as a performing artist with the multi-platinum recording stars and international touring group, The Ten Tenors.


“I am extremely honored and beyond thrilled to be joining the Gallo Center family,” said Hilligus.  “This is an exciting time for the center as we move confidently toward reopening and, in many ways, reintroducing ourselves to the community.  I look forward to continuing the highly respected legacy that Lynn and her extraordinary staff have built as we seek new and innovative ways to serve our patrons.”

“Chad comes to this position with a unique perspective,” Dickerson commented.  “He has spent the last seven years on the leadership and management side of our business, but before that he was an accomplished performer, so he brings the perspective of an artist, as well.  Chad is a professionally trained opera singer, and essentially grew up in the theater.  That background will be most beneficial as he leads the center going forward.”


A board member for the California Presenters Association, Hilligus’ experience in producing, directing and performing in more than 300 theatrical events includes a starring role as Tony in the 50th anniversary world tour of “West Side Story.”  He also has been a resident artist with opera companies in San Diego, Tulsa and Nashville, among others.

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Adapting and Reinventing Modesto’s Hospitality and Tourism


Todd Aaronson, CEO

Modesto Convention & Visitors Bureau


Every cloud has a silver lining…but the last year for the hospitality industry was a hurricane of epic proportions. Thousands of hotels closed across the nation, restaurant closings are predicted to be almost 50% in the U.S. and the special event/theater side of tourism has been shuttered for a year. We are fortunate in Modesto that our local industries are essential (agriculture and manufacturing), helping to propel our community, and county, to weather this storm better than most cities in the nation.

While U.S. hotel occupancy finished 2020 at only 44%, Modesto hotels were able to achieve occupancy above 63% and Stanislaus County hotel results were just over 62% .[1] This displays the incredible resilience of our region when times are the toughest. Our restaurant partners scrambled to provide to-go orders in new packaging, created safe environments, expanded patios, bought heaters for outdoor dining and much more. The community repaid them with strong support and the majority of our favorite dining spots are still there for us to enjoy! Our hotel partners persevered the most unique period and clientele seen in many years while providing a healthy environment for guests and staff alike.


The new traveler is driving more, seeking destinations with unique amenities that are close to national parks and are less crowded than favorite city destinations prior to the pandemic. That puts Modesto, the heart of California, right at the center of the travel boom (now called revenge travel). To keep business travelers, drive tourists and other visitors thinking of us Visit Modesto is providing myriads of reasons for them to visit Modesto between ‘here and there’. Programs like the Almond Blossom Cruise brought in thousands of visitors for four weeks running. Our promotions are now featuring all the places you can take your dog to stay and eat, authentic Mexican restaurants and Taco Truck lists (just wait till we launch Taco Quest!) and we recently announced Graffiti Summer for August of this year. While drawing eyes to our social and digital media we share information about DoMo Walls and Modesto’s public murals, the outdoor amenities from disc golf to trail riding to birdwatching and even expanded information about all the farm stands and what is fresh every month to take back home.

Bottom line: Modesto has not only persevered through the toughest of tough times, but we are also building many new ways to attract and welcome visitors in the future. That means every one of us has a mission to do our part when we see a stranger (who may be from anywhere between Seattle and Sanibel Island); Smile, welcome them and make sure you share at least one reason you Love Modesto!

Go to for more information.


[1] STR data for 2020