There are rare moments in history where with absolute clarity you can see the exact point where the present gives way to the future at the moment that it happens. The annual Route 66 International Festival is rapidly shaping up to be such a point in time.
1930 Detroit Electric (courtesy of Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation)
In addition to the collectors such as Mike Ward, Steve Rider, and Joe Sonderman that together paint a panoramic portrait of Route 66 history for every festival, the exhibition of authors who expound on the roads charm and vibrancy, the tangible sense of excitement as a legion of international fans gather to celebrate, and the colorful hot rods and vintage cars that provide a glimpse of the halcyon days on the double six, this year the festival will provide an opportunity to step into the not so distant future. The showcasing of exhilarating technological innovations that are making the electric vehicle a viable alternative to traditional automobiles, and tangible links to the electric cars earliest evolution, heralds the dawning of a new era on iconic Route 66 that begins this August in Kingman, Arizona. Still, the meat and potatoes of the festival will center on what makes Route 66 truly unique – its colorful history, the people, and the simple pleasures of a shared passion. Additional plans for the conference aspect of the event include discussions pertaining to the need for a cooperative effort to preserve historic bridges, bicycle tourism, historic motel management, and a wide array of pertinent topics.
Transformation of the festival into a crossroads of the past and future began with a simple discussion between event organizers and myself. How can we ensure this festival is different? How can we use this festival to illustrate that Route 66 is more than an historic footnote? How can we utilize this event to ensure that Route 66 remains relevant for a new generation? From this came the proposal to include discussions about Route 66 as an electric highway in the schedule for the informational seminars. Next, a noted automotive historian and author agreed to discuss the role of the electric vehicle in the development of the American automobile industry. Things then began to pick up speed. A unanimous affirmative decision by the board of directors was the response received to solicitation for participation submitted to the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation. Now a simple discussion is sprouting into an EV (electric vehicle) extravaganza that is already garnering international media attention. Stories appeared on Route 66 News and in the Kingman Daily Miner about this aspect of the festival in the last few days, reporters from London and Australia are requesting updates and information.
In addition to planned presentations from leading EV advocates and innovators in related infrastructure development, more than a century of electric vehicle evolution will be on display. Requests for information from a wide array of vendors hint that among the traditional t-shirt and hot dog stands there may be manufacturers of electric motorcycles and charging stations at this years festival.
Electric 1929 Ford, a hot rod for a new generation (courtesy Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation)
The concept of Route 66 serving as a high profile display for the dawning of a new era for the electric vehicle unleashes a staggering array of imaginative ideas and opportunities for the utilization and development of historic properties, and for communities to emulate Atlanta, Illinois and craft festivals that weave the past, present, and future into a stunning and vibrant tapestry. Embrace the past, dare to dream, and unleash the imagination. Join me in Kingman this August to see the dawning of a new era. Come celebrate the magic of Route 66 and be a witness to the beginning of a new chapter in that old highways colorful history.
The theme for this years Route 66 International Festival is “Crossroads of the Past and Future.” This is in reference to the changing face of Kingman as well as Route 66, and their links to our past.
Well, this press release amply illustrates that theme –
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation to Support Route 66 Festival
Carlsborg, WA – Janurary 27th, 2014 – The Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation, HEVF, has been invited to participate in the Route 66 International Festival, http://kingman66fest.com in Kingman, Arizona on August 14th through the 17th. After reviewing the information on the festival the HEVF Board of Directors voted unanimously to not only attend, but to support the concept of using Route 66 as the core of America’s First National Electric Highway. According to Roderick Wilde, Executive Director of HEVF, it was the theme that got their attention, “Crossroads of the Past and Future” but it was the conferences and exhibits that clinched the deal. The conferences include:
Project to Transform ROUTE 66 into America’s First Electric HighwayPresentation about the installation of charging stations along the Mother RoadHistory of Electric and Alternative Energy Vehicles in America
According to Wilde the festival will give HEVF an opportunity to showcase their foundation and their goal of building the world’s first International Electric Vehicle Museum. The foundation will be bringing approximately a half dozen electric vehicles of historical significance to the festival for exhibition. These will include a 1930 Detroit Electric, a 1960 Electric Shopper, a 1961 Trident, and the World’s first electric Street Rod, a 1932 Ford Roadster which has been featured in several magazines and international car shows. Also a 400 mile range EV2, the creation of HEVF’s Marketing Director, John Wayland, who will be driving it from Oregon to the festival. There also will be more EVs to be announced later. You can check the web site of the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation, www.hevf.org, or their Facebook page www.facebook.com/HEVForg for more information and updates.
In recent years the annual Route 66 International Festival has morphed into a family reunion of Route 66 enthusiasts from all points of the compass wrapped in a delightful weekend of fun filled activities for the entire family. Last year the organizers for the event in Joplin raised the standard quite high as the festival was nothing short of spectacular.
With less than eight months to go it remains to be seen if the City of Kingman will be able to top Joplin but early indications are that the 2014 Route 66 International Festival will truly be one for the history books. Manifesting the theme of “Crossroads of the Past and Future” will be an amazing array of electric vehicles.
When was the last time you saw a concourse quality 1960 Electric Shopper? How about a 1902 Studebaker designed by Thomas Edison?
Courtesy McLellans Automotive
When was the last time an old fashioned burger joint centered 1950s evening of unorganized cruising included an ultra rare 1930 Detroit Electric? Or a record setting electric ’32 Ford roadster?
These unique vehicles are but a few of the automotive treasures that will be participating as the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation is attending the festival. A detailed press release from this organization will be released this week.
Now, add in a Leaf or two, a few Tesla’s, GEM cars representing the Route 66 Electric Car Club and a couple of hybrids. Mingle these with the traditional ’57 Chevies, deuce coupes, Hudson built sedans, vintage trucks, Corvette’s, hot rods, a Model A and Model T or two, and motorcycles, and that equals a truly unique automotive event on Route 66.
But wait, there is more. TNT Engineering is hosting an exhibition of Bob Waldmire artistry and a gathering of VW enthusiasts on Saturday afternoon.
This, however, is but the frosting on the proverbial cake. The authors, artists, and collectors exhibition is growing in scope daily as evidenced by the scheduled attendance of acclaimed Route 66 author Akio Takeuchi of Japan.
The private initiative fund raising endeavor to have Joe Loesch and the Road Crew (see top right corner of the blog) perform at the festival has topped $1,000 in the first week. The popularity of this band with Route 66 enthusiasts (see the photo at left of crowds gathering for their performance in Galena, Kansas during last years festival) has earned them the title “The Route 66 Musical Ambassadors.”
If your not a “roadie”, the popular term used to describe a Route 66 enthusiast, when you check out the band members bio on the website it becomes quite apparent that this just may be the greatest band that you never heard of. Just listen to a few tunes on the website and see if your not inspired to take a road trip.
The Canadian Route 66 Association will be cruising to the event in mass. Attendees from Holland and Germany, from New Zealand and from Japan, from France and from Italy, are already making room reservations. All of this puts the international in the festival.
Now, a few quick somewhat unrelated notes. The Kingman Daily Miner is continuing its series about the festival with the latest published feature centering on the historic partnership between Hualapai Tourism and the organizers of the festival, and the fascinating history associated with Grand Canyon West that includes bat guano mining and an engineering marvel in the form of a cross canyon cable car.
Details are not finalized but plans are to include a special shuttle and admission rates to the Grand Canyon West Resort during the festival. This is the site of the world famous skywalk over the canyon floor.
For more than eighty years America has gotten its kicks on Route 66. For more than twenty years the old double six has been America’s most famous highway with a very enthusiastic international fan base. It looks as though that won’t be changing in 2014.
This morning is a bit of a mixed bag. Still, I am rather confident you will find interest in at least a few of the items.
Negotiations with History Press are moving forward on the contract and details for a new book. This book will represent a return to my writing roots as the topic will be the fierce and bloody battles for domination of the taxi industry on the streets and in the boardroom between 1920 and 1960.
In many cities during the 1920s the battle for dominance of this lucrative market was almost as bloody as the battles for control of liquor distribution during prohibition. At the corporate level hostile take overs were not limited to stock manipulation and leveraged buy outs as evidenced by the fire bombing of Morris Markin’s home (the founder of Checker) and similar incidents involving John Hertz of Yellow Cab.
Now, let me try and address the amazing number of inquiries about the Route 66 International Festival received in the past couple of weeks, and quell a few rumors before myth becomes fact. To say the very least, the search for answers to your questions and what I learned in my quest has been enlightening as well as exciting.
So, lets begin with bad news and grey areas peppered with exciting developments. Then we can move on to fresh updates.
Okay, in regard to questions pertaining to the role of Kingman Now LLC listed in the promotional brochure (a PDF is available upon request), they are not the actual organizing entity for the festival. To ensure clarification I inquired with Steve Wagner of Kingman Now and was informed that this entity is serving only as the promotional vehicle for the festival that is in essence a series of events scheduled for the same weekend in August.
In response to another often received question, my primary task in regard to festival development is to serve as an unofficial celebrity spokesman, to invite the world to Kingman, and to serve as a consultant to ensure that the essence of a Route 66 gathering that often includes an element of an oversize family reunion is not overshadowed. In addition, I have been working to funnel outside interests and inquiries to the various event managers that are coordinating these components. I fully understand that at this juncture things appear to be a bit chaotic. However, in actuality what is currently taking place is comparable to musicians first practice sessions as they prepare for a symphony.
In all honesty, after recent discussions with some of the event managers there is no doubt in my mind that this will be an historic, exciting, and fun filled event. As an example please consider Mr. Rick Zimmer’s fund raising endeavor to ensure that Joe Loesch and the Road Crew perform at this festival, the historic partnership with Hualapai Tourism, or the forthcoming announcement about participation by numerous electric vehicle organizations. The latter is truly exciting as it manifests the very theme of the event – Kingman (and Route 66) as the crossroads of the past and future. Indications are that in addition to modern vehicles taking advantage of the new Tesla charging station in town, there will also be an unprecedented number of historic electric vehicles participating.
Next, many of you in the Route 66 community have requested updates and information about the Route 66 Adventure raffle. As I was the one that solicited your involvement in this program, and as I kept responding to your questions with “please wait” and “please be patient” there is a definite sense of egg on my face.
I am quite sorry to say that Kingman Now is pulling the plug on this aspect. As it represented an unprecedented opportunity for involvement of the entire Route 66 community in the festival, and a chance to inspire folks to take a timely tip and get their kicks on Route 66 this is a bothersome development.
That takes us to questions about the websites, the one for the festival established by Kingman Now and the one for the Route 66 Alliance. As noted recently, an inquiry about updates was submitted to the Route 66 Alliance but an answer has yet to be received.
As to the official website for the festival, the lack of updates is apparently the result of the webmaster abandoning the project without notification. According to a spokesman from Kingman Now LLC, efforts are underway to rectify that. In the meantime you may also try the Kingman tourism site. Another often received question is in regard to music and who will be performing at the festival. At this time there is one confirmed performance and one pending. The former will be a performance by the Letterman as a fund raiser for the chamber of commerce. The latter is an opportunity for the Route 66 community to come together and that is the fund raising effort to get Joe Loesch and the Road Crew from Nashville to Kingman (see the upper right corner of the blog).
To close this out here are a few updates. Bob “Boze” Bell will be in attendance to introduce a new book. The Dolan Springs Chamber of Commerce will present an opportunity to pan for gold. Martin Swanty Chrysler will host an open house that will also serve as a gathering point for visitors on Friday evening. In addition, there will be a special edition of Chillin’ on Beale downtown. That should provide an excuse to cruise Route 66 under a desert sky. The Route 66 Alliance has indicated a return of the awards banquet. Film festival development is moving forward. In light of the tremendous number of inquiries about the possibility of including a series of short,informative seminars, in the festival, that too is being discussed. Topics being considered for discussion include NPS Route 66 corridor grants, bicycle tourism, electric vehicle infrastructure development, historic Route 66 infrastructure preservation, neon restoration,historic motel management, and similar issue of importance to the Route 66 community. I will keep you posted on updates. I hope all of this answers a few of your questions. If not, please let me know. If I don’t have answers immediately every effort will be made to get them for you.
I often wonder how many musicians, artists, painters, authors, and philosophers have found inspiration on Route 66? Well, that is a question which can never be answered but I do know of a Denver photographer that has apparently been quite inspired by recent Route 66 adventures.
KC Keefer, and Nancy Barlow, have been quietly building an archive that will be of inestimable value in years to come. Under the heading of Genuine Route 66 Life, this team of videographers is masterfully crafting a series of video interviews that captures the very essence of the Route 66 life and its diversity.
With the release of each video I find myself more amazed by the power of Route 66 to inspire, to transform lives, and to ignite passions. Can you think of any other highway that has its own theme song that also happens to be one of the most recorded songs in history, and an international fan base unequaled since the era of Elvis Presley?
Watch the videos about Kevin and Nancy Mueller of the Blue Swallow Motel. Watch the video of Alan McNeil and Heidi Engman. Route 66 is the land of dreamers and doers, of new beginnings and preservation, of adventure and passions unleashed.
Oddly enough this isn’t a recent phenomena. From its inception the old road has inspired dreamers and doers, philosophers and visionaries. Consider Steinbeck and Waldmire, Avery and Cuthbert, Ross and McClanahan.
As noted so often on this blog and in my speaking engagements, this old highway is the thread that ties most everything of importance in my life together. Still, the more I travel it, the more I immerse myself in its history and culture, the more I wonder what it is about this road that is so entrancing.
Why would a businessman in New Zealand buy a long closed motel and restaurant in Truxton, Arizona? Why would a young couple from Iowa buy an historic curio shop in Tucumcari, New Mexico and begin anew?
Why do people in Holland gather to form a Route 66 association? Why would a tour company in Australia be inundated with inquiries when they announce a Route 66 tour?
The magic and the mystery, the romance and the adventure that is only found on America’s most famous highway has to be experienced as it can’t be explained. Take a few minutes to watch the Genuine Route 66 Life videos and then make plans for a life changing adventure on the double six. You won’t regret either one.