A spirited debate has commenced on Facebook about the recent festival in Kingman, the unfolding plans for an event in Edwardsville, Illinois in 2015, frustrations associated with the disjointed planning of events, and even what constitutes a successful Route 66 festival. So, as the blog affords the space needed for an adequate response it seemed the best place to put in my two cents worth. First, from its inception the annual Route 66 International Festival exemplified what makes Route 66 unique, special, and memorable. It was an event where people gathered to share laughter, memories, and tales of adventure. At its core the festival was, and is, a family reunion. With the passing of years it became increasingly apparent that there was a missing component in the festivals. That was the need to disseminate information, to provide educational resources, and to foster the development of cooperative partnerships. At the 2014 Route 66 International Festival this shortcoming was addressed.In an unprecedented spirit of unity representatives from most state Route 66 associations, and several European Route 66 associations as well as organizations representing various aspects of the Route 66 community came together to share ideas and information. An international audience watched the proceedings live. As it was archived, the Route 66 Crossroads of the Past and Future Conference will continue to serve as a valuable reference for years to come. Now, we stand at a crossroads. We have learned that in 2015 an official Route 66 International Festival will not be taking place. Even if one were to be organized immediately there isn’t enough time for our international neighbors to make plans for attendance. However, we do have an event in Edwardsville, Illinois next fall. Cheryl Eichar Jett, official pinata for the event, provided a few details in her blog.It has been less than four weeks since the City of Edwardsville agreed to host and develop a conference coupled to their historic Halloween festivities that will have a Route 66 theme in 2015. In that short period of time endorsement has been received from the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway director, and Michael Wallis of the Route 66 Alliance. An historic facility has been secured for the conference and workshops. The Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program director with the National Park Service has provided input during initial meetings. So, we have a solid foundation upon which to create a festival. All we need now is the reception, the Route 66 Family Reunion festivities launched by Nick, Kumar, and Rich at the festival in Kingman, and perhaps an awards ceremony. At this juncture my suggestion is that we come together as a community and provide assistance to the City of Edwardsville to ensure the event is a success, and transform it into a Route 66 International Festival. I also suggest we turn our attentions toward 2016 and the development of a festival and conference that could serve as the kick off for the countdown to the centennial. I am well aware that the fall season is not ideal. However, it would provide our international neighbors with a better opportunity for participating than a summer event in 2015. In addition, the components are in place, and the City of Edwardsville needs a Route 66 boost. It will also provide Route 66 business owners with an opportunity to participate and contribute. Unlike the festival in Kingman, the conference could dominate the weekday, and the weekend and evenings could be set aside for festivities. This could serve as a template for the structure of future festivals. As we plan future festivals we need to keep in mind that few people will be able to attend a festival and a conference. We should also consider that a festival held between the first of June and first of September will most likely conflict with another event on the road. I have one more argument for the support of the Edwardsville event. A Route 66 themed Halloween festival is a very different slant. Besides, Steve Rider has already placed “dibbs” on coming in costume dressed as Jim Hinckley.
KINGMAN, EDWARDSVILLE, AND THE FUTURE OF ROUTE 66 CELEBRATIONS