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Will the Route 66 festival transform Kingman? July 23, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Motels, Museums, Restaurants, Towns.
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The Kingman Daily Miner newspaper posted an interesting article this week about Route 66′s growing economic influence and whether the upcoming International Route 66 Festival will transform the host town of Kingman, Arizona.

The article borrows heavily from the influential Route 66 Economic Impact Study and anecdotal evidence on how Route 66 affects other towns, including examples in Kingman itself.

The whole story is worth reading in full. But one angle that’s been overlooked is Kingman lacks a key Route 66 hub to attract significant crowds of tourists.

Here are several towns that thrive with Route 66 tourism because of a must-stop Route 66 hub, and a nearby town that often gets passed by because it doesn’t:

  • Stroud, Oklahoma, which has the Rock Cafe, vs. Bristow, Oklahoma.
  • Seligman, Arizona, which has Angel Delgadillo’s barbershop and the Snow Cap Drive-In, vs. Ash Fork, Arizona.
  • Pontiac, Illinois, which has the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, vs. Chenoa, Illinois.
  • Arcadia, Oklahoma, which has Pops and the Round Barn, vs. Luther, Oklahoma.
  • Tucumcari, New Mexico, which has the Blue Swallow Motel, vs. Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

That’s not to say that Kingman isn’t trying to set up a Route 66 hub. The Powerhouse Museum and Mr. D’z diner are worthwhile stops, but neither yet has the cachet of becoming indisputable destinations for Route 66 travelers.

This doesn’t mean Kingman should quit trying, either. Tulsa, for example, lacks a big destination for Route 66 travelers, but that doesn’t mean still-new Woody Guthrie Center or the long-planned Route 66 museum won’t eventually become one. In the case of Kingman, perhaps something else — such in its historic downtown — will eventually develop into a big attraction.

The point of this post is folks in Kingman shouldn’t get too excited over the effect of one little festival. If Kingman becomes transformed, it will be because of its entrepreneurs or historic preservationists over a period of years, not because of a four-day event.

(Image of the Kingman Club sign in Kingman, Arizona, by Tom Roche via Flickr)

Cowboy sign returns to Big Texan after one-month hiatus July 20, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Preservation, Restaurants, Signs.
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The 90-foot-tall landmark cowboy sign at the Big Texan Steak Ranch returned Friday after being removed for about a month when a wind storm damaged it, reported the Amarillo Globe-News.

The newspaper reported about the saga of Bull, the name of the cowboy figure on the sign:

Strong winds in late June damaged the sign to the point where it would have been dangerous to leave it up. That surprised Bobby Lee, co-owner of the Big Texan.

“He’s survived two tornados, a plane, blizzards … wind, you name it, but that one got him,” he said. [...]

AAA Signs of Amarillo spent weeks refurbishing and repairing the old herdsman. The high wind took its toll on the old steel, so plans were made for strengthening the design, AAA manager Dale Bural said. Some cosmetic touch-ups were made, but workers did their best to keep Bull authentic, Bural said.

The restaurant initially thought the sign would be down only a week or two. But the repairs apparently were more complex than anticipated. Either way, Bull probably will be fine for a few more decades.

Bull dates to 1960, among the earliest days of the Big Texan when the restaurant was on Amarillo Boulevard, aka Route 66. At one point, Bull had neon lighting. The sign’s surface was extensively renovated about 10 years ago.

Bull and the restaurant moved during the early 1970s after Interstate 40 opened.

(Image of Bull the cowboy in 2011 at the Big Texan Steak Ranch by bernachoc via Flickr)

Joe Rogers Chili Parlor reopening under a new name July 15, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Food, Restaurants.
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Joe Rogers’ The Chili Den Parlor, a landmark in Springfield, Illinois, since 1945 that unexpectedly closed in April, will reopen next month under the same family ownership, but a different name, reported the State Journal-Register.

Marianne Rogers, daughter of founder Joe Rogers, told the newspaper contractual issues with previous owners forbids her from using the terms “Joe Rogers” or “The Den” in its name. So it will simply be named The Chili Parlor.

Rogers shrugged off the name change, saying it happened before during the 1990s.

Most importantly, the recipes will remain unchanged from nearly seven decades ago.

The restaurant started in 1945 on 1120 S. Grand Ave. East, not on Route 66 but is barely a block away. But the current restaurant has since 1997 been on 820 S. Ninth St., a prominent alignment of the Mother Road through town.

Like Cincinnati, Springfield has long enjoyed a reputation as being a hotbed for chili. Springfield calls itself the “Chilli Capital of the World” (“chilli” is the locally accepted spelling). Springfield residents reputedly eat more chili per capita than anywhere else.

The beans and meat are cooked separately, which allows customers personalized orders. It can be prepared without beans, with extra beans, with extra meat or without meat. Customers also can specify how much oil they want in their serving.

(A serving of chili from Joe Rogers’ restaurant in 2009 by IronStef via Flickr)

Albuquerque’s most popular filming locations July 12, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Movies, Railroad, Restaurants, Television, Towns.
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KRQE-TV in Albuquerque produced this fascinating story about the city’s most popular filming locations for movies, television series and commercials.

Not surprisingly, several exist on Central Avenue, aka Route 66 — Lindy’s Coffee Shop and Loyola’s Family Restaurant.

The station reported:

So why are Lindy’s and Loyola’s attractive for filmmakers?

“They’re still period, they still look like they did maybe in the 50′s or 60′s,” said Ann Lerner, the city’s film liaison. “So they don’t have to build a set… they can go to a practical location.”

Score another one for historic preservation.

(Image of Lindy’s by Glen’s Pics via Flickr)

Reality show being produced at El Pinto Restaurant in Albuquerque July 9, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Restaurants, Television.
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A reality television show will be produced featuring the twin brothers who own El Pinto Restaurant and Salsa Co., which is located on an original alignment of Route 66 on the north side of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

According to the news release, Media Meld Studios and Smart Skirts Entertainment will produce the show about the Salsa Brothers, aka twin brothers John and Jim Thomas, who own the restaurant.

From the news release:

The unique location comprised of the largest New Mexican Restaurant in the world, engaging identical twin bachelor brother owners, coupled with a manufacturing facility producing 25,000 jars of salsa daily, makes for a dynamic opportunity. The backdrop is the inspirational beauty of New Mexico: from green chile fields to the south, to the white capped mountains in the north, to the blue summer skies of the North Valley of Albuquerque where El Pinto is located.

“Few understand until they see on TV the hard work of small business in America, from delivering organic food to the restaurant table to taking products to the grocery store shelf across the nation,” explains Salsa Twin John Thomas, co-owner.

Salsa Twin Jim Thomas explains, “El Pinto is a story of American ingenuity within a hispanic family with roots deep in the food business that stretch back 80 years to old Mexico.” The growth of El Pinto through the work of dedicated staff expanding from one small room with a few seats along original Route 66 in rural New Mexico to over 1,000 seats in addition to the manufacturing facility producing nationally distributed salsa is a study of determination that continues.

There’s no word on when the show will air, or on what network, although it would seem the Food Network would be an ideal landing spot.

The restaurant is at 10500 Fourth St., which was Route 66 from 1926 to 1937. It also used Google Street View to its advantage:

View Larger Map

(Image of El Pinto Restaurant by Mitch Wagner via Flickr)

Bob Kraft, former co-owner of the Riviera, dies July 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in People, Restaurants.
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Bob Kraft, a co-owner of the regrettably gone Riviera Roadhouse bar and restaurant along Route 66 in Gardner, Illinois, died last week at age 90 in a nursing home, according to an obituary in The Daily Journal of Kankakee, Illinois.

Kraft and his wife, Peggy, who died in May 2013, owned and operated the Riviera for 37 years. Their business was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame in 1994. They retired in 2008.

The restaurant and tavern were known as a hangout for gangster Al Capone during the late 1920s. Actors Gene Kelly and Tom Mix reputedly stopped there as well.

The bar for many years served as a local hangout, but gained a second wind the last 10 years or so of its existence when the Krafts’ friendly reputation and the bar’s old-school vibe start to gain Route 66 travelers from far and wide.

Daily Journal writer Robert Themer, a few days after Robert Kraft’s death, recounted a memorable hour with him at the bar in 2002.

Bob had the look of absent-minded retired English professor — glasses slightly askew, as if he had just awoke from a nap, solid blue bow tie, striped shirt with plaid trousers and a shaggy gray and white cardigan of horizontal stripes.

It wasn’t his outfit, though, or even the whiskey that made the flooding problems of the Mazon take a seat at the far silent end of the bar.

It was Bob’s gift of genial conversation that he carries on with as he tends to the bar customers, pushing closing time — relatively early weeknight 11 p.m. But then, Bob was 77 and on that mid-February night was two months from his 55th anniversary of polishing his act as a barman.

The Ace Jackalope blog in 2010 also posted a lot of photos and memories of the Riviera.

A suspicious fire destroyed the Riviera in 2010. Officials from the state investigated, but no cause was found, and no arrests were made.

Surviving are one son and a daughter-in-law; three nieces and one nephew; five grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

Kraft was cremated, and there was no funeral service. Memorials may be made to the National Historic Route 66 Federation. An online guestbook also has been set up here by the funeral home.

(Image of Bob Kraft courtesy of Ace Jackalope)

Summer in St. Louis July 8, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Restaurants, Sports, Towns.
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A friend on Facebook posted this a few days ago, and it certainly will make former residents of the Gateway City homesick. If nothing else, maybe it’ll encourage a few Route 66 travelers to hang around the city for a few days.

Here is St. Louis from Grain Inc. on Vimeo.

The exceptional video was created by Grain Inc. of St. Louis. Whoever paid them got their money’s worth.

(Image of the St. Louis Arch by princesskoko via Flickr)

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