Even though I still have a great deal to tell you about the recent festival in Joplin, our road trip, and a few discoveries made along the way, it seems important to first share my excitement about what is happening in Galena, Kansas. Here are two photos that exemplify what happens when a community pulls together as a team and harnesses the incredible power of the Route 66 renaissance.
Interior of a late 19th century home/brothel in Galena, Kansas in October of 2012.
The first photo is of an historic late 19th century building in Galena, Kansas that was well past neglected. It was leaning eight feet to the side, had almost no roof, was almost entirely gutted, had a collapsing foundation, and was near a point of collapse.
The second photo is of the same building as of last week. It is now a stylish bed and breakfast.
At every turn in this old mining town there are signs that this community is rising like the mythical Phoenix. Buildings empty for decades are still empty but now they are being painted, have new windows, or repaired roofs.
There are several new restaurants and coffee shops, new sidewalks, new streetlights, and murals. And of course there is Melba’s, (formerly 4 Women on the Route, now Cars on the Route) that served as the cornerstone for this stunning transformation.
My pet theory is that if you make a community a destination for visitors you make it a place people want to live and to open businesses. Galena exemplifies this as this tiny town of less than 5,000 people now has a new, state of the art medical center.
In spite of the rain showers, and the heat that preceded them, this dramatic transformation electrified the Friday evening festivities. I am quite confident that this as well as the stunning turnout for the festival will spark a true Route 66 renaissance in communities all along this storied old road.
Now, with that said, I will provide a few more highlights from the main event. Saturday morning kicked off with a drizzling rain and a forecast for more of the same for the rest of the day. Fortunately, the weatherman was wrong.
A tradition for these festivals is the Route 66 “E” group breakfast organized by Mike Ward, and his charming wife Sharon (membership is free). The actual breakfast, more like a family reunion than an event or ceremony, is really just the excuse for everyone to get together, to visit, to catch up, and to share stories.
Each breakfast is accompanied by a raffle with all prizes donated by individuals, businesses along Route 66, authors, or collectors. Everyone leaves with a prize, memories, a full stomach, and a very big smile. It is the perfect way to start a day at the biggest Route 66 festival on the road.
As the various alignments of Route 66 are well marked in the Joplin area, we chose to follow the earliest alignment from Granny Shaffer’s in Webb City back into town for the festival. By the time we found our assigned parking area, the rain had subsided and the crowds were beginning to ebb and flow along the street.
This, however, was nothing. By late afternoon when the car show added a new dimension to the festival Main Street began to look a lot like Time’s Square on New Years Eve.