The groundswell of fascination and interest in Route 66 shows no sign of waning. In fact, if anything, it is growing and as a result, the transformation from lost highway and dusty historic artifact to living, breathing time capsule continues at an exciting pace.
|We added Shelly’s in Cuba to our list of favorite breakfast stops this past October.|
Exemplifying what this means for communities big and small along Route 66 is the charming little town of Cuba nestled in the Ozarks of Missouri west of St. Louis. Colorful murals, a few highly visible landmarks such as the World’s Largest Rocking Chair, a beautifully restored vintage motel with a charming and personable proprietor, a couple of nice, old fashioned mom and pop restaurants, and small town events such as Cuba Fest have transformed the place into an unlikely international destination. Indicative of the big splash this town is making are recent news stories, such as this feature from Chicago. Oddly enough, while many communities along Route 66 see the increasing fascination in the old road made manifest in an almost endless stream of motorcycles flying flags from a wide array of nations, only a few have harnessed this interest as a catalyst for development and improvement. For every Pontiac, Cuba, Williams, Seligman, or Tucumcari there are ten more like Ash Fork, Needles, Kingman, and Barstow. In these towns the efforts, if there are any, to utilize the resurgent interest as a catalyst to breathe new life are often stillborn, splintered, of fall by the wayside resultant of issues ranging from petty personality conflicts to poor planning and lack of funding. As I am intimate with the history of Kingman’s efforts, that is the story to share today. In the past twenty-five years I have lost count of just how many well intentioned projects have fallen by the wayside. Meanwhile the historic district falters inspiring visitors to zip through town from somewhere to somewhere. Well, if this past year, and especially the past few weeks, are any indication, we may have finally turned a corner and are now following in the footsteps of Cuba. The Brunswick Hotel is under renovation with plans that include the addition of a gallery featuring the photographic work of Jim and Judy Hinckley and an opening in time for the annual Route 66 Fun Run. Chillin on Beale, held the third Saturday evening of every month from April through October, is entering its third year as a low key event where motorized vehicles of every type and a relaxing evening under the desert stars are the main attractions. Dora’s Beale Street Deli, on Beale Street one block north of Route 66, in addition to the most delightful breakfasts, now hosts a wide array of special themed evenings that are garnering critical acclaim. One block to the west, the First Friday event at Beale Street Brews and Gallery, sandwiched between Redneck’s Barbeque (a TripAdvisor award winner) and the Cellar Door is also attracting attention well beyond Kingman.
The first stage in an extensive proposed mural program is well underway. The second mural window in the west wall of the historic Old Trails Garage has been installed, the art work by acclaimed artist Sandy Rusinko for a third window is underway, and the inserts are completed for all of the windows.Real estate agent Steve Wagner who hosted a series of community forums in 2012 about what other communities were doing, and who specializes in the sale of properties in the historic district has enlisted my assisting in the developing a project entitled Kingman – Crossroads of the Past & Future. The primary objectives are to bring a unified and cohesive structure to the ongoing renovation of the Route 66 corridor, and to strive toward having Kingman approved as the host city for the 2014 International Route 66 Festival. Meanwhile, our innovative tourism director, Josh Noble, continues to think outside of the box in regard to tourism, such as with his geocache program along Route 66, and to lend support and encouragement to the organizers of various projects while developing things that will make Kingman a destination. One of these is the development of a new video series, Jim Hinckley’s America (a teaser from the promo). The first installment in the series by award winning producer Norm Fisk will focus on the myriad of attractions awaiting discovery in the Kingman area. The primary aspect will be obscure sites and the interesting history of Route 66 in the area but it will also introduce viewers to the desert oasis that is the Hualapai Mountains, are ghost towns, and a few surprises such as the hiking trails in the Cerbat foothills. To say I am excited would be an understatement. Kingman, one of the great undiscovered destinations on Route 66 is about to step into the spotlight. Perhaps, someday, we will be as famous and as big an attraction as Cuba.