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Did Springfield, Missouri, miss the boat in promoting Route 66? July 29, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Restaurants, Towns.
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A few days ago, the Springfield News-Leader published a long, soul-searching piece titled “Selling 66″ that asks the question: Has Springfield, Missouri, done a good job promoting Route 66?

If you have to ask, you know the answer.

Springfield has realized its error and is trying new things to bring tourists, including the future Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park. And the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival seems to be growing fast.

The article is worth reading in full, including its cool photos. But here are a few newsworthy highlights and observations:

  • The Route 66 Economic Impact Study of 2011, as I predicted, opened a lot of eyes about how financially viable the Mother Road is. The conservative number of $132 million in annual tourism spending on Route 66 surprises a lot of people. Naturally, folks want a piece of that.
  • City Manager Greg Burris said not only tourists, but locals said Springfield wasn’t tapping its Route 66 potential.
  • Jackie and Larry Horton, tourists from Newcastle, England, said Missouri doesn’t promote the route as well as Oklahoma and other western states.
  • In a few weeks, an 18-foot-tall neon sign will be installed at the Convention and Visitor Bureau’s Route 66 center on St. Louis Street.
  • History Museum on the Square’s Route 66 show last year drew an “unprecedented” 10,000 visitors in six months. The museum is planning a permanent Route 66 exhibit after it finishes a $20 million renovation.
  • The number of visitors to the Route 66 Visitors Center doubled from 2012 to 2013 because officials added Route 66 signage.
  • Best Western Rail Haven owner Gordon Elliot plans to build a replica of the long-gone Red’s Giant Hamburg restaurant.

I suspect when the Route 66 roadside park and other such projects are finished, Springfield — and a lot of businesses there — will be very happy it took the trouble to do so.

(Image from the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven in Springfield, Mo., by the Missouri Department of Tourism via Flickr)

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)

A new hill rises north of Galena July 14, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Businesses, Towns.
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The bad news is Galena, Kansas, is home to a new hazardous waste dump north of town just off old Route 66.

The good news is the hill of contaminated soil is covered with native grass, and people who have seen the finished product say it’s not as ugly or as obtrusive as feared.

Renee Charles, who works with the city of Galena and is co-owner of Cars on the Route, emailed photos of the dump. It is near the old Eagle Picher plant, and less than a mile north of the historic Front Street Bridge, part of old Route 66.

She and other Galena residents expressed fear two years ago, when the dump was being planned, it would “affect the view of the thousands of foreign and domestic tourists that have been traveling the Route, it would stick out like a sore thumb. … We have just received our Historic Byway designation and it will not help the intrinsic value of that area.”

But, in a recent email, Charles acknowledged the site, which was finished a few weeks ago, “doesn’t look too bad.”

The contaminated soil came from decades of lead and zinc mining waste in the region. The Galena dump site has a concrete slab underneath to prevent leaching, and is overseen by the Kansas Department of Health and the Environment.

In many ways, this almost is a best-case scenario for a lead-mining town such as Galena. The town has been cleaned of much contaminated soil, the dump site is mostly unobtrusive, and downtown seems to be thriving after city officials spruced it up after noticing all the Route 66 tourists. And best of all, Galena isn’t as badly inflicted by piles of chat, or mining waste, as nearby Picher, Oklahoma. Despite millions of dollars in attempted cleanups, Picher never did escape problems caused by mining, and has become a ghost town.

I understand some people want Route 66 to be 2,400 miles of vistas. However, Route 66 is a complex microcosm of America … the beautiful intermingled with the ugly. You will encounter gorgeous areas in the Missouri Ozarks, Oklahoma ranch country, New Mexico mesas, Arizona’s red rocks, and California’s desert and beaches. But Route 66 also has junkyards, abandoned gas stations, stinky oil refineries, dusty feedlots and scenes of grinding poverty.

On Route 66, you’ll enjoy wide swaths of the road. But you also will learn a lot about America as well.

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)

Severe hail causes a white July in Flagstaff July 10, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Towns, Weather.
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A potent monsoon storm dumped heavy rains and hail on the east side of Flagstaff, Arizona, on Tuesday — causing residents to break out the snow shovels a few months early.

According to the Arizona Daily Sun, so much hail fell that one resident reported that lawns still were white from piled-up hail on Wednesday. One resident reported that hail fell for 15 straight minutes during the storm.

About 30 homes reportedly encountered flooding or damage from the storm.

The combination of water, mud and hail clogged culverts and other drainage holes, reported Anthony Sockyma.

The stream had a four foot wall of hail pellets piled up against his rear fence, which he shares with several neighbors. The flood water was two feet deep at their back doors.

“All of a sudden, the water came down the hill and it was a downpour for a while,” Sockyma said. “The water couldn’t go anywhere else, so it just started coming through (my yard).”

Then, the Flagstaff Fire Department arrived with squeegees. The agency said that hail reached three to four feet deep in area throughout the east side, blocking traffic and moving sludgy mud and debris. Sockyma worked with the crews to get his belongings above the water as it moved through his back door and out the front. He and many of his neighbors escaped with little property damage, even though water entered their homes.

The situation in Flagstaff sounds eerily like the severe hailstorm that struck Santa Rosa, New Mexico, also in July last year. But that storm damaged hundreds of homes or businesses and forced highway departments to break out their snowplows for hail that was several feet deep. Santa Rosa marked its first anniversary of the storm just days ago.

(Screen capture of an Arizona Daily Sun video after the hail storm)

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)

Springfield tunnel once was part of a brewery June 26, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Food, History, Restaurants, Towns.
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Last week, workers clearing land for the future site of a Route 66-themed park on College Street in Springfield, Missouri, found a series of underground rooms that probably were at least a century old.

This week, media outlets — including the Springfield News-Leader — found the tunnel once was part of the Springfield Brewing Co.

A 1969 report from Springfield Plateau Grotto, which explores caves in southwest Missouri, provided the details:

“The first cellar was 37 feet long, 16 feet wide and 10 feet high, constructed of laid Burlington stone in the classic arched form typical of brewery cellars in such places as Hermann, Missouri and the brewery caves of St. Louis,” the report reads. [...]

“Two ventilation shafts penetrated the ceiling of the second cellar; these were filled with trash, including what appeared to be an ancient stove or safe. The other shaft had been used to dispose of large quantities of soda bottle caps, among other debris,” the report reads. “The trash had been in the cellars for many years as shown by the almost complete oxidation of metal containers. These were almost entirely rust, though the ancient labels of some of the cans could still be read.”

And KSPR-TV in Springfield provided some details about the long-gone brewery:

German immigrant Sebastian Dingeldein moved to Springfield in 1876. He signed a ten-year lease on Springfield’s only brewery, and later bought it. He owned the company for almost 15 years. In that time, he more than doubled its production selling beer throughout Southwest Missouri and Northern Arkansas.

Jason Dingeldein, Sebastian’s great-great grandson, says, “A hundred years ago he would have been a well known member of the community, and, it’s just amazing to think that we have that connection.”

According to the Brewery History Society journal, the first brewery — which later became Springfield Brewing Co. — was established in 1872. For a time, Dingeldein’s company was called Southwest Brewery. The brewery eventually closed in 1911.

After that, there was no beer brewing in Springfield until the beginning of the microbrewing era in the 1990s. That includes Mother’s Brewing Co., which is right on Route 66, and the resurrected Springfield Brewing Co., which is at another location from the original.

The city hasn’t decided what to do about the tunnels, but a Public Works Department spokeswoman said its historical nature is a good fit with the Route 66 park and some sort of marker is likely.

(Image of the Springfield Brewing Co. via City of Springfield)

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