In February, 1927 a group of visionaries gathered to create the U.S. Highway 66 Association. The goals of the new organization were relatively simplistic in concept – promote U.S. 66 in its entirety, and assist in the creation of state, local, and federal agency coalitions to get the highway paved from Chicago to California.
Linking the modern era of Route 66 renaissance with that early meeting is an initial marketing campaign that branded the highway signed with two sixes as the Main Street of America. Another link to the highways infancy is the need and relevance for a similar organization today.
In recent years there have been numerous attempts to recreate the unifying essence of that organization but while most have made valuable contributions, none have succeed in creating a unified sense of community and a unified sense of community purpose. Even though a great deal has changed since 1927, the Route 66 community is still in need of unifying leadership to address the myriad of challenges of preservation, promotion, development, and to address the importance of development that ensures the highways relevance for future generations.
These thoughts have served as a primary directive in my role as a consultant in the development of this years Route 66 International Festival in Kingman. Simply put, I saw the festival as more than a mere celebration of the roads unique culture and history, and an opportunity for fans of the double six to join together in what is essentially a giant family reunion.
Born of this idea was inclusion of a full conference, a convention if you will. As a fledgling endeavor surely there will be flaws and glitches but I am confident that it will foster development of partnerships all along the Route 66 corridor.
The chamber of commerce will be confirming speakers for the event and creating a schedule in the next few weeks. The tentative list includes Kaisa Barthuli of the National Park Service, authors and historians, representatives from Route 66 Associations, and leading proponents of the electric vehicle community.
My involvement in the development of this years festival has also solidified my opinion that this annual event is vital to the health and vitality of the Route 66 community. It has also convinced me that there is a dire need for a single organization to oversee and develop the annual event. In short, this entity would have an organizational template as well as a package of sponsors in place before partnering with the host city.
In the development of this festival I have witnessed a tremendous waste of time and resources, experienced almost unfathomable frustrations and witnessed the results of others suffering through similar maladies, and agonized over squandered opportunities that could have greatly benefitted the Route 66 community as a result of not having a prepackaged template or slate of sponsors. Still, I am of the opinion the festival will be enjoyable, informative, and inspirational.
Joplin set the bar quite high with last years festival. I do not harbor any illusions about Kingman reaching that lofty goal but can assure you that it will be a transitional point in the highways history.
As always, I am interested in your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. I am also interested in knowing if you plan on attending this years festival in Kingman.