|The opening ceremony in Joplin.|
We rolled into Joplin from Kansas on 7th Street and turned north on Main Street, both of which are alignments of Route 66. On the Monday before we left I had been informed that a city license would be needed before books could be sold during the festival so our first stop was the beautiful old building that serves as the Joplin city hall.
With license in hand we set out in search of our motel on Range Line Road and dinner after seeking out the various locations for the activities that had been scheduled for Friday. This, of course, provided an excuse for exploring the most fascinating historic district.
The first order of business on Friday morning was joining other authors, collectors, and vendors as I unloaded books and the wide array of Route 66, and Kingman, promotional material at the Christman Event Center a block north of the city hall. Then it was off to the Route 66 economic summit meeting.
As I walked to the city hall there was an almost palpable and contagious sense of excitement in the air as city crews and vendors were transforming Main Street into the heart of the Route 66 International Festival. With Dale Oglesby, the mayor of Galena, the mayor of Joplin, Michael Wallis and other speakers detailing the transformation that comes from harnessing the power in the resurgent interest in Route 66, the summit meeting fueled that sense of excitement and eager anticipation.
Next on the agenda was the opening ceremony that included a ribbon cutting ceremony for the beautiful new mural on Main Street. With this event the sense of excitement and anticipation climbed another notch or two. It was now quite obvious this was going to be a Route 66 celebration of unprecedented proportions.
In spite of an early morning rain, a weather forecast that called for more of the same, and oppressive and stifling heat, by late afternoon Main Street had been transformed into a sea of people that ebbed and flowed around the vendors. This, however, was nothing compared to Galena on Friday evening.
This former mining boom town located a few miles to the west is being transformed from near ghost town into a pulsing, exciting little village. The evident changes since our last visit in October were nothing short of astounding.
On Friday evening the main event was Joe Loesch and his band, The Road Crew, performing on Main Street. His band is always a draw at Route 66 events but this was unprecedented. I can honestly say that everyone who attended was amazed at the crowds in tiny little Galena.
Still, this proved to be only the opening act in a Route 66 festival that was almost overwhelming in size and scope.