It started simply enough. An internationally televised conference featuring Route 66 association representatives from throughout the world was added to the slate of activities for the 2014 Route 66 International Festival.
Initially this was to be a three day event that included a variety of workshops. For a multitude of reasons that was truncated midway through festival development. That in turn necessitated exclusion of the workshops, and a painful trimming of the proposed speaker list. In turn, that resulted in some hurt feelings and a few folks who took the cut as a personal insult.
Interestingly enough, the idea of tying a conference and workshops to the festival predated the historic event in Anaheim last year. The idea in mind was to blend the family reunion aspect of the festival with a program that fostered communication, the sharing of ideas, and the development of cooperative partnerships.
Several weeks ago when it was becoming apparent that the sanctioning body for the annual Route 66 International Festival, the Route 66 Alliance, would not be sponsoring an event in 2015, I responded to a number of inquiries from representatives in several communities that had expressed interest in hosting the festival, and initiated discussions with other communities that had talked of developing an event.
I informed them of the situation, provided an array of details, and in each instance offered my services as a consultant. I also offered to assist in the promotion of an event that they would develop and host.
Even though the time proposed time for an event wasn’t ideal, through the efforts of Cheryl Eichar Jett, the City of Edwardsville stepped into the breech. They approved hosting the conference and tying their historic Halloween parade with a celebration of Route 66.
Within two weeks a suitable venue had been secured, a wide array of endorsements were obtained, and things were moving forward. However, a lack of concrete information about what activities would constitute the event in Edwardsville (they have only had a few weeks), and miscommunication created serious concern as well as much needed debate in a very passionate Route 66 community.
Unfortunately it also provided an opportunity for a few individuals who would rather fan the flames of dissension than offer solutions. As a result the progress made in developing a unified sense of community as well as community purpose was jeopardized, just as it was after the conference in Anaheim.
I am the first to admit that the late October date is not ideal. However, it provides an interim solution as plans develop for 2016 and beyond.
The conference, and workshops, should become an integral part of each festival. To separate them by location or date would be counterproductive.
However, if the event is held on an annual date in the fall, such as the anniversary of U.S. 66 certification, the Route 66 business community would be in a better position to participate and contribute, but the Route 66 enthusiast would be hindered. If it is held during the months of summer as is traditional, the Route 66 enthusiast is provided a better opportunity for attendance with their families but the business community is excluded from participation.
So, my question is why can’t we utilize the wonders of modern technology as we did in Kingman? Why not develop the annual festival for the same dates of each year? Why can’t we host a televised conference, with inclusion of speakers representing the Route 66 business community from towns along Route 66? Why can’t we televise the workshops?
The template for each festival would look something like this:
Evening reception at kick off –
Conference and workshops during the week –
Evening activities –
Weekend would center on the traditional festival events –
It would also be imperative that festival development is organized on a 24 month schedule, ideally, or at the very least, an 18 month schedule. Now, with that said, Scott Piotrowski has taken the bull by the horns and is laying groundwork for a traditional festival with conference component in Los Angeles in 2016.
In a more perfect world this would be the initiation of the countdown to the centennial. The culmination would be a week long event in 2026 that commenced in Springfield, Missouri (birthplace of Route 66) and ended with a bang in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Of course for any of this to develop in a manner that has any semblance of continuity with maximum benefit for the host cities as well as the Route 66 community, there will need to be a centralized organization that oversees development of the festivals.
I mean absolutely no disrespect to the Route 66 Alliance or the National Historic Route 66 Federation. However, the overseeing organization needs better representation from the Route 66 community.
A rough thought for development is this.
One, the organization has a director elected for a five year period. This may seem like a lengthy time but there is a need for the development of cooperative relationships with the Route 66 community.
The board of directors consists of one member from each of the state Route 66 associations. That member is elected by the state association and serves for two years. International associations appoint one advisor for each organization.
The primary purpose of this organization is to appoint a host city for the festival, provide a template of development for the host city, provide assistance in promotion, and provide assistance in the acquisition of sponsors.
Each member including advisors is allowed one vote for the selection of a host city. The host cities will be appointed on a 24 month schedule.
The meeting of this organization would be annual. It would be included as part of the festival and it would be televised.
Okay, thoughts, ideas, suggestions?