The first step in creating an organization that can meet the needs of the modern Route 66 community while preserving its unique history and culture, and ensuring its relevancy for future generations is to honestly evaluate what has worked, what is working, and what isn’t working. Fortunately and unfortunately my consulting role in the development of the Route 66 International Festival in Kingman has provided a bit of insight on this.
With the luxury of hindsight I now see that from its inception there were two major flaws in the initial development of the 2014 festival and that has created tremendous problems. First, the organizers had a poor to nonexistent understanding of the Route 66 community and its culture. To compensate they depended on my familiarity with the road and my name recognition.
The second flaw was found in the structure of the sanctioning body for the festival, the Route 66 Alliance. In a transitional state without adequate funding and with a staff hampered by a severely restricted schedule they were able to offer very limited support.
The tragedy that resulted was multifaceted. Opportunities such as an offer of assistance from Patrick Tuttle, a primary element in the success of the 2013 festival in Joplin, were squandered, not utilized, or they were minimalized.
Michael Wallis, a driving force behind the dawning of the Route 66 renaissance endured personal affronts. Detractors used the impotence of the Alliance made manifest in a website unchanged since the festival in Joplin to hinder festival development in Kingman, as evidence in unfounded arguments against the Alliance and its members, and for personal gain.
These initial problems snowballed. Then they were compounded when the organizers chose abandonment over resolution resultant of their inability to build a working partnership in Kingman or the Route 66 community and an unwillingness to take advice that ran counter to their vision of what the festival should be.
Amazingly, in spite of the lack of leadership from the organizers or consistent assistance from the Route 66 Alliance, the fragmented pieces were brought together by members of the chamber of commerce, a few city officials, business owners, and members of the Route 66 community.
As a result, the 2014 festival is developing in a manner that could have long term ramifications for the Route 66 community as a whole and serve as a template for future events. Most notably, once the chamber of commerce confirms the list of speakers, there will be a two day Route 66 – Crossroads of the Past and Future conference.
In short, the festival is going to be an incredible event. It will be fun, informative, and for most visitors, filled with surprising discoveries about Kingman.
For me, if the festival inspires creation and development of the long awaited entity that steers and fosters a unified sense of community in the linear village of Route 66, it will be a resounding success worth all of the headaches and frustrations.
With that said I would like to propose discussion of the next step with the first goal being development of another convention in 2015. So, who would like to initiate this discussion?