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 newgeneration (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.