My assistance as a consultant in the development of the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman has been an eye opener to say the very least. It has also confirmed a number of assumptions both good and bad developed over the course of the past few years.
The first of these is the need to plan ahead. Our international friends need more than six months or a year to make arrangements for attendance.Even though the official announcement wasn’t made until August, the organizers of the festival in Kingman received word of approval from the Route 66 Alliance, the sanctioning organization behind the official festival at that time, in January. This allowed ample time for setting a date and informing Route 66 associations in Europe as well as enthusiasts internationally.As a result, the festival in Kingman will truly be an international event. The German, Czech, and Dutch Route 66 associations will be represented. A tour group from New Zealand will be in attendance. Japanese enthusiasts will be in attendance.
So, with that said, at this time plans should be well underway for an event in 2015. However, to the best of my knowledge a host city has yet to be selected for the next festival, and we are still struggling with development of coordinated promotion for the Kingman festival.
Next, even though the two day Route 66 – Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference, a key component in this years festival in Kingman, is still under development, the interest it has generated leads me to believe that there is a need to rethink the entire festival concept. What is needed is a Route 66 convention wrapped in a festival.
As envisioned, this years conference will bring together leading proponents of electric vehicle infrastructure development, Route 66 historians, representatives of state and international Route 66 associations, business owners, and other individuals associated with key aspects of Route 66 development. I expect glitches as it is the first conference of its kind since the U.S. Highway 66 Association disbanded, and a wide array of leadership issues have plagued festival development in Kingman since the first of the year.
Still, I am of the opinion it will provide tremendous long term benefits for the entire Route 66 community. As a result, this needs to be an annual event.
The next item pertains to promotion, sponsors, and development. A primary issue hindering development of this and other festivals has been the need to reinvent the wheel with each one.
This results in an extensive waste of time and money. What is needed is an organization to manage convention development and for the rest of the festival, to create a prepackaged template with major sponsors, promotional materials, media contacts, and other components in place. This would allow the host community to simply open the box and set up shop.
Additionally, there is a need to piggy back events. Promotion for the 2015 event should be tied to promotion for this years event providing at least an eighteen month window to ensure international participation. An annual convention or festival is only part of the picture. Picture the partnership between Joplin and Galena made manifest in a tremendous festival last August on a larger scale. What if this type of partnership were developed on a national level? Imagine events in Kingman on one weekend linked and promoted with events in Holbrook the following weekend. Imagine pooled resources for international promotion of businesses and communities.Little of this is a startling revelation. It has been the topic of discussion for many years among Route 66 enthusiasts and business owners. At the festival in Litchfield, Illinois, in 2008, a steering committee was established that gave rise to the Route 66 Alliance. Several years ago I signed on to assist in the development of the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce. David Knudson quietly soldiers on just under the radar as his National Historic Route 66 Federation makes tremendous strides in the preservation and promotion of Route 66. In 2011, in Amarillo, I was asked to sit on an advisory council for the Route 66 Alliance. In November 2013, I attended a World Monument Fund hosted Route 66 symposium and a primary point of discussion was the need for an organization to foster a unified sense of community and a unified sense of community purpose in the linear village that is Route 66.Okay, here is my question. I mean no disrespect to anyone or any organization involved with Route 66 preservation or development but are we serious about pooling resources and talents to ensure the future relevance of Route 66? One more. How many people think it is time to do more than hold meetings and discuss an obvious need?I would really like to hear your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions. Then, perhaps, we can use the festival in Kingman and the convention, to build a functioning coalition that makes the idea a reality, and that ensures the centennial celebration of this storied highway is also a celebration of community pride, spirit, and vision.