A recent letter to the editor in the Kingman Daily Miner struck a chord. It wasn’t because I was called out by name, after all I am a writer that lives in Kingman, Arizona and as a result am accustomed to slings and arrows, the harsh reviews of critics, and rejection letters from publishers.
No, this letter struck a chord because to a degree the writer is correct. I am not happy with Kingman as it is.
However, I am not envisioning “young and modern”. No, my vision leans more toward vibrant and thriving, a town where the atmosphere is electrified by a palpable sense of excitement and enthusiasm about the cities past, and how that past can play a role in its future.
That vision is encapsulated in the theme for the forthcoming Route 66 International Festival – Kingman, and Route 66 as the crossroads of the past and future. And that theme is being made manifest through participation by hot road and classic car enthusiasts, as well as proponents of electric vehicles of the past, present, and future.
This event is but one manifestation of the Kingman I envision. Others include the changing face of Beale Street, the sense of community that flows through the historic district during the monthly Saturday evening Chillin’ on Beale, and the annual Route 66 Fun Run.
Kingman suffers from a common malady. In the rush to embrace the new, the modern, the Walmart and McDonalds, the Pizza Hut and Tractor Supply Store, we neglected our past, our historic heart, the essence of what makes this community unique.
And so the bane of suburbia in all its generic glory swept across the wide Hualapai Valley transforming Kingman into Phoenix or Dallas, Flagstaff or Sierra Vista. Without the historic core a community becomes an imitation, a caricature.
A community needs to embrace the modern but it also needs to be rooted in its past. That is what makes a community unique, colorful, and enticing.
In Kingman, as with many communities, people question the spending of monies to develop tourism related infrastructure or promotion when there are so many needs. What is often overlooked is the fact that in the process of transforming a community into a place people want to visit, you transform it into a place people want to live, to open businesses, and to raise families.
To accomplish the tedious and thankless task of creating a sense of community purpose requires vision. There also needs to be leadership that inspires, leadership that ignites a passion to transform the vision into a reality.
Over the years Kingman, as with many communities, has missed countless opportunities resultant of misplaced trust in inept leaders who lacked the tenacity to see a project through to completion, or that were self serving. Apathy and division fostered by a poorly articulated vision for the future, and failed attempts to make effectual change have also played a role.
Change is in the wind. Just cruise Beale Street on a Friday or Saturday night. Sample the goods at the new bakery and ice cream parlor on Andy Devine.
Still, timidity, apathy, and complacency hinder or stifle the transformation of Kingman into a destination for visitors. The festival as an opportunity to introduce an international audience to the wonders of Kingman, and as a showcase to present it as a progressive community with an electric vehicle museum and Tesla charging station is almost upon us.
It looks as though Kingman may have some leadership at the helm so lets hope that this is an opportunity that is not squandered. Lets hope that this is the event that casts aside the pall of apathy and optimistic pessimism that dictates the conviction that nothing will ever change in Kingman.
Perhaps the time has come for people to inspire the leaders. Perhaps the time has come to write a few letters to the editor.