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How did the Kingman Route 66 festival do? August 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Towns.
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The answer: Pretty well; thanks for asking.

The town of Kingman, Arizona, hosted the annual International Route 66 Festival for the first time last weekend. I’ve cobbled together some highlights from the event:

  • Estimated attendance, according to the Kingman Daily Miner newspaper, was 6,000, which was in line with forecasts.
  • About 60 percent of festival attendees were out-of-towners.
  • Businesses reported a sizable increase in sales over the weekend.
  • More than 1,000 went into Beale Celebrations downtown to check the work of Route 66 authors, artists, and collectors. A good roundup about it may be found here.
  • General chatter from other Route 66 and Kingman Internet groups was very positive for the festival.
  • Nearly 200 people attended the Route 66 Crossroads conference of speakers Friday and Saturday at Mohave County Administration Building. It also totaled 3,000 hits on YouTube’s live stream on Friday. The speeches are archived on YouTube here and here.
  • Hundreds were at Locomotive Park for concerts, including by the Route 66-themed Road Crew from Tennessee.
  • About 500 attended a sock hop and drive-in movie at the fairgrounds.
  • The Hilltop Motel in Kingman was honored by the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program for its preservation efforts.
  • The 2015 International Route 66 Festival will be hosted by Edwardsville, Illinois, in late October, coinciding with the city’s popular Halloween festivities. (Clarification: Route 66 Alliance co-founder Michael Wallis informs me the Edwardsville event hasn’t yet officially been named as a host, but the group soon will be negotiating with the city for that purpose.)

“Route 66: The Road Ahead” report released August 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Events, Preservation.
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The World Monuments Fund this month released its report on the “Route 66: The Road Ahead” roundtable held in November at Anaheim, California, that involved many movers and shakers of the Route 66 community.

The 67-page Acrobat document can be read in its entirety here. I commend it to your attention.

Much of the report dovetails from the Route 66 Economic Impact Study (you can read the summary here). But the roundtable produced its own highlights:

  • Stakeholders see an urgency — and an opportunity — with the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program expiring in 2019 and Route 66′s centennial in 2026. The implication is the Route 66 community needs a central organization that can dole out preservation grants much as the NPS program does now.
  • Vintage motels can tap into a niche market of so-called “heritage tourists” and those who want a vintage-Route 66 experience.
  • A missed opportunity is attracting a growing number of Hispanics — especially since the proportion of such populations on the Mother Road is twice as high as the national average. Stakeholders said Route 66 also needs to attract other minorities, such as American Indians — which have a long history with the highway in the Southwest — and African-Americans.
  • Roundtable participants discussed the possible need of Route 66 getting a permanent federal designation, such as a National Historic Trail. More about that idea can be read here.
  • President Obama has set a goal of 100 million international visitors in the United States annually by 2021. The U.S. market share of spending by international travelers dropped from 17 percent to 11 percent from 2000 to 2010 — presumably from the effects of 9/11.
  • Preservation of vintage roadways and bridges often is overlooked, but must be considered for the benefit of heritage tourists.
  • Landscape protection is the third-most important aspect for Route 66 travelers. Route 66′s open spaces are under threat from wind farms, solar farms, oil and gas exploration, cell towers and urban development.
  • Route 66 will need to attract the post-baby boom generation, which has no memories of U.S. 66 and less spending money than their forebears. However, the movie “Cars” and smartphones have provided a way to tap into that market.

And the report saw fit to print the entire text of a speech by the mayor of Pontiac, Illinois, Bob Russell. He told a lot of interesting things about how Route 66 benefits his town, and they may prove applicable to your town as well:

As the mayor of a community that is located on the route, I have been heavily involved in the promotion of Route 66. It is obvious to me that the only way that our community, and all the communities along the road, will be able to continue to support the route is to look at it as an economic development opportunity. Even though the City of Pontiac has had great success in this endeavor, there is continuing resistance from taxpayers, and understandably so in this economy. It is very difficult for our residents to understand how tourism can benefit our city when they live on streets that are in need of repair. Our passion alone will not be enough to be make this a successful endeavor. Our state and federal governments are poised to continue cutting the funds that we receive from them to provide the necessary day to day services that our residents expect. In light of this, it has forced us in Pontiac to take our fate into our own hands. The only available option for us has been the promotion of tourism that Route 66 has afforded.

In an economic era when many of the communities in Illinois are boarding up their storefronts, our city has achieved almost 100% occupancy in our downtown business district. The Route 66 Hall of Fame Museum in Pontiac has created opportunities for other museums to locate to the city, which in turn has convinced restaurant and retail store owners, along with bed and breakfast operators, to move their operations here. I have had to explain to residents for several years now that you do not attract retail stores until you have the foot traffic. Now we have the foot traffic and that indeed has attracted new retail stores, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts. All of the Route 66 development must create additional sales tax and provide for more jobs. Without these two components, we will not be successful in the continued promotion and preservation of Route 66.

The one benefit that we had not anticipated is the investment of wealthy entrepreneurs who visit our city from other countries. The majority of the Route 66 visitors from European and Asian countries are fairly well off financially, and they still view the U.S. as one of the best opportunities for investing their money. As such, we are promoting the availability of land the city owns along our interstate and state highways as good locations for them to invest their money to start new businesses. We have been promoting this idea for the last 25 years with some success, but now have a renewed interest from our Route 66 visitors. The goal of this endeavor is the same as our retail development, and that is to create jobs and tax revenue.

The only promise I made to our residents when they asked me to serve as their mayor was that while I am in office, there will be no increase in our real estate taxes. The development of Route 66 tourism will enable me to keep that promise through the end of my term. The other somewhat hidden components that the Route 66 redevelopment has provided for the City of Pontiac is quality of life and community pride. The opening of new restaurants and shops in our downtown has provided our residents with wonderful places for them to get together with old friends to have a great meal and to just sit and chat with one another and then take a leisurely stroll around from shop to shop. It is always fun for me to see our local residents showing their friends or family around our city and seeing the pride that they have in doing so. Without the development of the Route 66 tourism, I have no doubt that our city would look tired and worn, as so many other communities do.

To make tourism work is not an easy task. The first obstacle for many communities is to get the elected officials to buy into the idea. The majority of them want to be able to see tangible results in a very short period of time. This is nearly impossible to provide, first, because it takes many years to develop, and second, because it is very difficult to quantify. For the City of Pontiac to make this work, the elected officials, our volunteers, our City Administrator, our Department Head, and all of our employees have all had to go that “extra mile.” All of our museum buildings are owned or leased by the city and we are in partnership with all the museum operators. We get a percentage of their income to offset our expenses. There have been thousands of volunteer hours provided by all of the above groups to get the museums ready and to keep them staffed. Some of the elected officials volunteer one to two days a week at the museums and some of our residents volunteer at least two to three days a week in helping to curate the museums. I have personally worn out a couple pairs of shoes over the last few years by spending so much time greeting all of our visitors and giving personal tours to various groups. If a municipality wants to be successful in developing tourism, they must put together a very dedicated team that is willing to work tirelessly to get it off the ground. Is it all worth it?

The answer is yes. The results for our city have been more than I, or anyone involved, could have ever imagined. The word that I keep hearing used in describing our community is “energy.” Many of our visitors tell me that there seems to be a lot of energy here, and there is. The people who love their community will put in as much energy as it takes to make their community a better place to live. I believe that we have just seen the beginning of the development of Route 66 tourism as an economic development tool. So many people from so many countries are just learning about it, and I am continually being told by our visitors that everyone from their country wants to make the trip.

We now have the opportunity as communities to grasp it by working together to promote it. I believe the strategic roundtable that World Monuments Fund sponsored was the best opportunity we have had to make this happen. Let’s do it!

Conferences at Route 66 festival will be streamed live August 13, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, People.
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A series of speeches for a two-day conference called “Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future” will be streamed over the Internet live on Friday and Saturday during the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman, Arizona, it was announced Wednesday.

The video stream will be on Mohave County’s official channel on YouTube. In addition, the presentations will be posted on the channel after the festival.

So, if you can’t attend, the videos will likely be the next-best thing to being there.

Here is the schedule of speakers, so set your calendars if there is someone in particular you want to hear:

Friday, Aug. 15

  • 8:30 a.m., Michael Wallis, Route 66 Alliance
  • 9 a.m., Ron Hart, Route 66 Chamber of Commerce
  • 9:30 a.m., Sharlene Fouser, Arizona Route 66 Association
  • 10 a.m., Kaisa Barthuli, Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program
  • 10:30 a.m., Sean Evans, Northern Arizona University archivist
  • 11 a.m., Ed Klein, Route 66 World
  • 1 p.m., Richard Mouer, Route 66 bicycle corridor development
  • 1:30 p.m., Nick Gerlich, bicycle tourism
  • 2 p.m., James Thole, Route 66 Association of Missouri
  • 2:30 p.m., Larry Clounts, Texas Old Route 66 Association
  • 3 p.m., Glen Duncan, California Route 66 Association
  • 3:30 p.m., a representative from the New Mexico Route 66 Association
  • 4 p.m., Renee Charles, Kansas Route 66 Association
  • 4:30 p.m., Dries Bessel, Dutch Route 66 Association

Saturday, Aug. 16

  • 8:30 a.m., Roderick Wilde, Historic Electric Vehicle Association
  • 9 a.m., Tudor Melville, Tesla Owners Group
  • 9:30 a.m., Jerry Asher, Plugshare
  • 10 a.m., Rudy Garcia, EV Station Solutions
  • 10:30 a.m., Jim Ross, Route 66 historian
  • 11 a.m., Kathleen Smith, Holbrook Chamber of Commerce
  • 1 p.m., Kumar Patel, Wigwam Motel
  • 1:30 p.m., Scott Piotrowski, Route 66 in Los Angeles historian
  • 2 p.m., Roger Naylor, Arizona Route 66 author
  • 2:30 p.m., Bob Boze Bell, author
  • 3 p.m., Wolfgang Werz, German Route 66 Association
  • 3:30 p.m., Zdnek Jurasek, Czech Route 66 Association
  • 4 p.m., John Holod, Exploring Route 66 by RV
  • 4:30 p.m., Jim Farber, Route 66 exhibit at Autry National Center

Springfield erects new welcome sign, Red’s Giant Hamburg replica August 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, History, Restaurants, Signs.
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On Friday, right when the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival was kicking off, the city of Springfield, Missouri, showed off its new Route 66-themed welcome sign and a replica of the long-gone Red’s Giant Hamburg restaurant sign at the newly christened Route 66 Roadside Park.

The Springfield News-Leader had some details about the park:

Plans for the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park include incorporating memories of local Route 66 landmarks, sculptures, a filling station replica, a motor court sign replica and a history plaza. The first phase of the park includes the replica of the Red’s Giant Hamburg sign, a park driveway and parallel parking, landscaping and sidewalk improvements along College Street. [...]

The initial streetscape cost $423,000, including $112,000 for utilities, and was paid for using ¼ cent capital improvement sales tax funding. The Red’s Giant Hamburg sign was funded with donations of more than $15,000, raised through the local crowdfunding company www.Crowdit.com.

The estimated cost for the park altogether is about $1 million, according to Rognstad. However, with additional ideas popping up, that could run higher, city leaders say.

To complete the park and other improvements included in a vision plan, the city must leverage its investment in the project with private donations and other sources of funding. A larger plan to revitalize historic Route 66 through other parts of Springfield could roll out in phases, as the city gauges interest and potential funding.

The KY3 station filed this report about why Springfield is suddenly embracing Route 66 — economic opportunity.

And KY3 posted this bonus — a report from 1984 when Red’s Giant Hamburg closed when the Chaneys retired.

Video summarizes “Route 66: The Road Ahead” conference July 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Preservation.
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A few days ago, the World Monuments Fund uploaded this eight-minute video that summarizes the “Route 66: The Road Ahead” conference that took place in November at a hotel near Disney’s Cars Land in California.

You’ll probably see a few familiar faces from Route 66, including Dawn Welch at the Rock Cafe, Kevin Mueller at the Blue Swallow Motel, Allan Affeldt at La Posada, Bill Thomas of the Palms Grill Cafe, and Kaisa Barthuli of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. The video also touts the Route 66 Economic Impact Study, as it should.

Alas, you’ll also see a few things that are no more, including Bill Shea, who died in December, and the Bell gas station in Tulsa, which was demolished (but the sign saved) in March 2013.

Route 66: The Road Ahead from World Monuments Fund on Vimeo.

(Image of brick Route 66 near Auburn, Ill., by Jim Grey via Flickr)

Springfield will simulcast Ozark Mountain Daredevils concert during festival July 24, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Music.
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If you didn’t have a ticket to the Ozark Mountain Daredevils‘ headlining concert at the Gillioz Theatre during the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival in Springfield, Missouri, on Aug. 9, no worries — the sellout show will be simultaneously broadcast for free on a 16-by-30-foot screen in Park Central Square downtown.

The band enthusiastically endorsed the idea, according to the Springfield News-Leader. And the band also had a few interesting things to say about Route 66:

In the release, band member John Dillon said that Route 66 “played a key role in Springfield’s access to popular music.”

“Because of our location on ‘The Mother Road’ our area of the country was able to tap in to the amazing talent of so many great performers from so many different genres,” Dillon said. “Our band was influenced by the spirit of Route 66, the artists who traveled through Springfield, and the music they shared.”

The show and simulcast, which includes the opening acts Powder Mill, Cindy Woolf and Mark Bilyeu, will begin at 7 p.m. Aug. 9. The city is encouraging people to bring lawn chairs to Park Central Square so they watch it.

The band’s biggest song was “Jackie Blue,” which came within an eyelash or two of being a No. 1 single in 1975. The band has been in semi-retirement for years, but surviving members reunite every so often for shows, especially in its hometown of Springfield. You can hear much of their stuff here:

Some festival proceeds will go to building the future Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park on College Street in Springfield.

(Image of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils in 1975 via Wikipedia)

An idea for Route 66 events that needs to spread July 22, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Events, Vehicles.
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A few days ago, the committee for the Route 66 Classic Car Cruise that will take place Aug. 9 in Crestwood, Missouri, announced the newest charity that will receive proceeds from the annual event.

According to a news release, the committee will give the event’s proceeds to Project Backpack – St. Louis, which serves the St. Louis metro region.

Project Backpack provides area police departments, social service agencies, domestic violence shelters and Department of Family Services workers with backpacks filled with necessities and comfort items. The backpacks make a huge difference for children who are removed from their homes, usually with nothing but the clothes on their backs. These filled backpacks are delivered to children on the scene and at the moment they are needed.

In earlier years, the car cruise committee has given proceeds to SAJE Senior Ministry, CHADS Coalition, USO Toys for Tots and the Lindbergh School District Foundation Teacher’s Grant program. The committee chooses a new charity each year.

This is a smart way to run an event. Because it’s done for charity, more people will be inclined to support it. People who have benefited from the chosen charity will be motivated to attend the cruise. Local businesses still will gain from the Route 66 event’s influx of visitors. And for goodwill, it’s hard to beat.

Those who run or who are considering a Route 66-themed festival ought to consider the format of the Route 66 Classic Car Cruise.

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