Dries Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association, left, and author Jim Hinckley at Ramada Kingman. (Judy Hinckley)
Cyrus Avery and his visionary team so successfully marketed U.S. 66 as the Main Street of America that ninety years later it is, perhaps, the most famous highway in America. It is also a living time capsule where the Main Street of America forever immortalized by reruns of I Love Lucy, Norman Rockwell, Andy Taylor and Barney Fife, and George Bailey lives on forever.
While America slowly awakens and discovers that there is a portal stretching through the heartland where the past and present, and even the future blend together seamlessly, an ever growing legion of international enthusiasts are turning this old highway into America’s longest attraction. That, my friends, adds an infectious vibrancy and excitement to almost any Route 66 adventure or event.
Part of the convoy that provided our visitors with transportation to the ceremonies. (Judy Hinckley)
On Tuesday night I was quite privileged to assist with the organization of a very special reception ceremony for Dries Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association (his charming wife Marion was unable to accompany him on this years Route 66 tour), and a U.S. Bikers Route 66 tour consisting of travelers from the Netherlands, Belgium, and England. It was, to say the very least, a fun filled evening that exemplifies the latest incarnation of this storied old highway.
In 2014, during the Route 66 International Festival, a walk of fame was unveiled on Andy Devine Avenue to honor as well as commemorate the individuals that have played a role in transforming Route 66 from a highway into an icon. Each year during the Best of the West on 66 Festival, new inductees will be added. This year that included Dries and Marion Bessels.
In addition to playing a key role in the establishment of the Dutch Route 66 Association, Dries and Marion make an array of tremendous contributions to the international Route 66 community from tree planting in Galena, Kansas and speaking at the Crossroads of the Past and Future conference during last years international festival, to playing a role in the development of the 2016 Route 66 European Festival, the establishment of an informative website for Dutch enthusiasts, hosting receptions for American Route 66 enthusiasts in Amsterdam, and providing assistance to travelers during their treks along Route 66.
As Dries and Marion will be unable to attend the official ceremony during the festival, a special reception was hosted by Ramada Kingman. Dora Manley and City Manager John Dougherty made the presentation as the cameras flashed, and a dinner followed.
In a wonderful display of community support, local car club members pressed their vehicles into service to provide the group with memory making transportation. Vintage military trucks, classic Chevy’s, convertibles, and roadsters made for a quite a parade through town.
Barriers of language and culture seem to melt away on Route 66. That was surely the case on Tuesday night.
This link is for the feature about the reception published in the Kingman Daily Miner. Next, a reception for our friends from the Czech Republic, Eva and Zdnek Jurasek.
Between now and their visit, we have Chillin’ on Beale with Cinema under the Stars, the County Fair, and Best of the West on 66. Then my dearest friend and I can turn our attentions to a road trip and the festivities in Edwardsville.
Kerrick James, on assignment in Switzerland sent this photo. Yes, that is a Route 66 sign and yes, that is the Matterhorn in the background.
Communities along Route 66 from Grant Park in Chicago to the Last Stop Shop on Santa Monica Pier are in a most enviable position, at least from a marketing standpoint. They are linked to what may be the most recognizable signage and most popular highway in the world. Still, surprisingly, only a few communities have successfully utilized this promotional edge as a catalyst for development and redevelopment.
Even more surprising, the Route 66 community has yet to build a cooperative partnership that mimics the former U.S. Highway 66 Association. That amazing organization, with a relatively small staff operating in an era of dirt roads, Model A Ford’s, and sketchy long distance phone service launched the marketing campaign that branded the double six as the Main Street of America. There were also annual conventions, organized lobbying efforts, and branding the road as the Will Rogers Highway. In short, they managed to transform a highway into a cultural phenomena which in turn fueled a renaissance for a highway that officially no longer exists.
There are indications, however, that the 90th anniversary year for Route 66 could be the dawning of a new era. The recent National Park Service facilitated Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative town hall meetings were one manifestation of the exciting developments waiting in the wings just off stage.
Another is the Miles of Possibilities Conference and the Route 66 activities scheduled to take place in Edwardsville, Illinois on the last weekend in October. Congratulations are in order for Cheryl Jett and the organizers that patiently worked to awaken a community, and create an event that will have long term benefit for most anyone with a vested interest in Route 66.
There is also the European Route 66 Festival scheduled for next July in Germany, and Scott Piotrowski’s endeavors for showcasing the original western terminus of Route 66 with a mega anniversary celebration. These are additional manifestations that the Route 66 community is coalescing into something as extraordinary as the highway itself.
Meanwhile, a bit closer to home, Kingman is awakening, slowly, to the possibilities that the Route 66 renaissance offers. The date for the Best of the West Festival is fast approaching, and this morning the Kingman Daily Miner posted a feature that profiled a bit of the events history.
Plans are under development to build on Chillin’ on Beale, a series of low key but fun events that takes place on the third Saturday of every month, April through October in 2016. Utilizing the events as the cornerstone for a year long celebration of the 90th anniversary of Route 66 is the general concept.
The bottom line, 2016 promises to be a most exciting year for the international Route 66 community. I am quite confident that it will kick off plans for some pretty amazing centennial celebrations.
Now, a few personal notes. The schedule for our travels to Edwardsville, and coinciding scheduled appearances is pretty well set. However, I can still squeeze in a book signing or two, or stop by to sign books in your inventory. Please drop me a note to discuss this.
One more item, if you or your tour group plan on visiting the Kingman area, a custom itinerary can be created for you. Also, available are customized tours, events, and presentations.
For more information contact me directly, or the Ramada Kingman, the cities only full service Route 66 resort.