As the 2014 Route 66 International festival officially closed last evening at 10:00 PM, I lack hard numbers, details, or specific information about festival attendance but I do have a few indicators of its success. The sidewalks pulsed with people for more than six blocks on Andy Devine Avenue, and the street was filled with classic, custom, and antique cars as well as VW’s and Tesla’s. On Beale Street there was actual traffic congestion, the sidewalk teemed, parking spaces were filled for blocks in all directions, and restaurants were filled to capacity for hours on end.
2014 Route 66 International Festival in Kingman, Arizona.
Even better, in spite of the warm weather there was a veritable sea of smiling faces found throughout the historic district and people honestly seemed to be having a good time. Then there was the Route 66 Crossroads of the Past & Future conference with people watching the proceedings live all along Route 66 as well as late into the evening, all around the world.
Attendees came from the Colorado River Valley and Phoenix, the Ukraine and Massachusetts, Canada and Florida, Germany and the Czech Republic, California and the Netherlands.
If these factors are any indicator at all, my guess is that it was a successful festival. Now, we look toward the next chapter and 2015. First, however, I will provide a festival wrap up as well as share a few of the highlights.
Author Jim Hinckley and Mike Ward with his “major award.”
Every festival seems to have an underlying comedic theme. Last year it was a novelty hat with attached wig. This year it was an historic artifact, empty bat guano fertilizer cans from an almost forgotten enterprise north of Kingman that operated in the early 1950s.
Several weeks ago I received dozens of these little gems in various sizes and thought that they might be a fun gift to share with some of my friends, fellow Route 66 enthusiasts, and associates. My thought was that these guano cans turned pencil boxes would generate a laugh or two but had no idea that they would provide such entertainment for all concerned.
The world’s first electric vehicle museum opened at the Powerhouse Visitor Center during the 2014 Route 66 International Festival.
Most of the day was spent imitating a celebrity by posing for pictures, signing books, posters, and t-shirts, and answering questions about Route 66 and Kingman. I also squeezed in a bit of time to enjoy the traditional Yahoo Route 66 E-group breakfast hosted by Mike and Sharon Ward with my wife and friends, and to document the historic event while checking out the VW show and the railroad museum with my son.
My dearest friend and I also kept an appointment to meet with Jerry Asher, Roderick Wilde of the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation, Bob Oldfather, and Tudor Melville to discuss the new electric vehicle museum that officially opened during the festival. I also wanted to thank each of them personally for their contributions.
This turned out to be one of the numerous highlights of a very chaotic day in which I struggled to blend the aborted Friday schedule and obligations with the very full Saturday schedule.
My dearest friend at the tiller of a 1930 Detroit Electric with Bob Oldfather as an instructor.
The stimulating conversation about electric vehicles as well as the embryonic electric vehicle museum (the first of its kind in the world) that will be housed in the Powerhouse Visitor Center and its projected growth over the course of the next few months set the stage. In an instant the festival theme of Route 66 as the crossroads of the past and future was made manifest.
First, my dearest friend was given a crash course in the operation of a very rare 1930 Detroit Electric. Next, a stimulating ride in a Tesla west along Route 66 courtesy of Tudor Melville. In an instant every other car on the road seemed as antiquated as a Model T Ford.
Dries Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association, left, and “Croc” Lile with their major awards.
At 5:00, I served as the guide for the walking tour through the historic district that had been originally scheduled for Friday afternoon. Enduring the heat to learn a bit about Kingman’s colorful history, and to hear me beat my gums about colorful characters, were Kaisa Barthuli of the National Park Service, Dries and Marion Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association, Mike May and his family from Las Vegas, and Joe Sonderman.
We arrived back at the event center in time for me to sign a few books, to help my dearest friend who had boxed things up, to present Kaisa Barthuli with her major award, and to reload the Jeep. Next, we quenched our adequately stimulated appetite with a delightful dinner spiced by laughter and wonderful conversation at El Palacio in the former Kingman Drug building.
For me the shortcoming of the festival was the fact that in the rush of things compounded with the chaos of a conflicted schedule, I missed visiting with friends like Nancy Barlow and KC Keefer, Ken Youden and Bill Daughtrey, and a few dozen others. In addition, a misunderstanding about schedules also resulted in missing a proposed interview.
Left to right, author Jim Hinckley, author Chery Eichar Jett, and Joe Loesch of the Road Crew.
My dearest friend and I closed out the fun filled day, but not the festival, at Locomotive Park with friends and the Road Crew performing under a beautiful desert sky. My last service of the day was a brief thank you to all who attended the festival, and an introduction for Chery Eichar Jett, the representative from Edwardsville, Illinois. She provided an invitation and basic information about an exciting event being developed for 2015.
Afterwards, my dearest friend and I decided to call it a day rather than attend the blow out party for Route 66 enthusiasts taking place at the El Trovatore Motel. Exhaustion and a promise to take Rich Dinkela on an exploratory adventure before the 8:00 AM meeting provided adequate incentive.
Resultant of the pressing travel schedule of Route 66 association and Alliance representatives, attendance of the morning meeting was poorly attended. Still, Mike and Sharon Ward, Chery Eichar Jett, Dries and Marion Bessels, Kaisa Barthuli, my dearest friend and I discussed basic details about the conference being developed for 2015.
“Roamin’ Rich” with his major award.
At this time only the most basic details have been resolved such as the fact that it will take place at the end of October in Edwardsville, Illinois. Even though there hasn’t been an indication that an international festival is being planned for 2015, this late date will ensure that there isn’t a conflict of interests.
Additionally, it will allow the conference and workshop to be held in conjunction with the cities historic Halloween Parade and activities that have taken place since 1924, with the exception of two years during World War II. It will also allow Route 66 business owners to participate.
At this time plans are in the formative stage with a website and Facebook page on the list of things to do. Still, this morning we all agreed that it is imperative each Route 66 association be kept apprised of developments, and that these organizations be asked for input. We were also of the opinion that the communities along Route 66 should be kept in the loop.
One of the first inductees in Kingman’s Route 66 Walk of Fame.
With that said, please feel free to share thoughts and ideas about the proposed conference as well as the content of workshops. Keep in mind that we envision an event that builds on this years internationally televised Route 66 Crossroads of the Past & Future Conference.
Next, I would like to provide a bit of information about an interesting endeavor that is currently unfolding. Open Road Productions, Inc., a Michigan based company, is now offering a limited, special service in association with Jim Hinckley’s America, the loose title for my various tour services and photograph series available on the Legends of America website.
In a nutshell, tours in the American southwest, and along Route 66 between Amarillo and Santa Monica, will be customized to your groups specific interests in an effort to ensure a unique as well as memorable adventure. For more information contact Open Road Productions at email@example.com or drop me an email.
Last but perhaps of most importance, a very hearty thank you. I have received a great deal of praise for my role in the outcome of the festival.
Rick Zimmer with his major award.
Yes, I worked on hard on its development. Still, my dearest friend deserves a great deal of credit. After all, she patiently supported and encouraged me when I was ready to hang up my spurs, and offered advice with near perfect timing.
There is absolutely no way this festival would have come together with the efforts of Dora Manley, and the support she received from her husband. Still, what ensured this festivals success was you, the Route 66 community.
This festival is a manifestation of the spirit, the essence of what makes Route 66 a community unlike any other. Without the efforts of Rick Zimmer, Joe and the Road Crew, Tom Dion and Melba, what type of celebration would this have been?
Without the sacrifice of time and expense from the Route association representatives here as well as abroad, without Kaisa Barthuli, and our city manager, without the perseverance of Bob Boze Bell, James Gross and his crew, Buz Waldmire, Mike and Sharon Ward, Dries and Marion, without the support of those who stayed home to keep the businesses open, what type of event would we have had?
Without the association representatives, artists, authors, and collectors, without the conference speakers, without the people who simply came to see old friends, what vibrancy would there be?
To each and every one of you who attended the historic event or who followed the conference on line, thank you. This was your festival. This was your event. This was a celebration of the community you created.
The legendary 0 to sixty in 1.9 second White Zombie at the new electric vehicle museum in the Powerhouse Visitor Center.