Anniversaries and similar milestones in life always spark reflection on what was, the dreams we once had, the future that we envisioned, and the future that we envision now.
In less than two weeks my dearest friend and I will celebrate thirty-three years as husband and wife, and almost thirty-five years of adventure. Each and every day I give thanks for her unwavering support, the advice, the encouragement, the friendship, and her irrepressible sense of adventure.
With all honesty, when my dearest friend and I were double dating in a battered ’26 Ford touring car, when I was driving in from the ranch to see her in my ’46 GMC, and when we exchanged those vows, we never once imagined that we would one day be sharing adventures with friends in Germany, sipping coffee in the kitchen of friends in Amsterdam, or having lunch in Kingman with friends from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the Netherlands. After all, we were just small town kids in a dusty Arizona town, a clerk in a department store and an itinerant ranch hand who occasionally earned his keep by polishing shovel handles or driving a truck.
Jeroen and Maggie Boersma with me, and my dearest friend at the first European Route 66 festival. Courtesy Sylvie Toullec
Even though I am quite a dreamer, apparently I don’t dream big enough.
Well, last year my dearest friend and I saddled up for a new type of adventure (better late than never, I suppose), a quest to make the chasing of dreams the day job. To say the very least it has been interesting.
The history of this important segment of Route 66 in Kingman will be revealed during my presentation at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis.
On October 1, I will be making a presentation at the annual fund raising dinner for the Needles Chamber of Commerce. Full details will be provided shortly. My dearest friend and I will again take to the road in mid October as presentations are currently scheduled for Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri, at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park in St. Louis, and at the 2nd Annual Miles of Possibilities Conference that will take place in Bloomington, Illinois. In November, we head west for the 90th anniversary Route 66 celebration in Los Angeles where I will be making another presentation. The travel schedule has yet to be completed but it would be great to see you on the road, either at an event or for coffee along the way. Drop me a note and perhaps we can coordinate a meeting. Likewise if you would like to retain my services for a fund raiser or presentation in your community. Now, I need to wrap this up. Here is to adventures and adventures shared with good friends. In closing, a parting thought. Never give up on dreams, don’t be afraid to dream big, and chase those dreams wherever they may lead.
There are so many exciting things to share with you today that I scarcely know where to begin!
This evening, at Ramada Kingman, the Route 66 Association of Kingman will be hosting their monthly meet and greet at 6:30 PM. This free event, open to the public, is always a great opportunity to mingle with local business owners and community leaders, and to learn about exciting area developments. This evening the guest of honor is Franco Zefferi of Rome, Italy, an avid Route 66 enthusiast. This link is for his blog.
Next month the associations meet and greet will be Rutherford’s 66 Family Diner. The date hasn’t been set but I will provide full details as soon as they become available.
The Best of the West on 66 Festival in Kingman scheduled for the weekend of September 23 that evolved from the Diggin’ and Doggie Days noted by Jack Rittenhouse in A Guide Book to Route 66published in 1946, will be quite an event this year. Activities include a PRCA sanctioned rodeo, a parade with Dries and Marion Bessels of the Dutch Route 66 Association officiating as grand marshal, a travel expo in the renovated Beale Celebrations building, vendors, live music, car show, rock climbing wall, barbecue, and much, much more. Full details can be found on the Go Kingman website.
The travel expo that will take place during the festival will be an excellent opportunity to showcase your business or community. Yesterday, in talking with Jamie Taylor of Just Marketing, the event organizer, I was told that the City of Needles, Grand Canyon Caverns, Grand Canyon West Resort, and Hualapai Tribe have expressed interest in having a display, and that the City of Holbrook, the Historic Route 66 Association of Arizona, Kingman area wineries, Ramada Kingman, and others will be in attendance.
For more information about the travel expo, contact Jamie Taylor at (928)530-2056 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also scheduled for September, in Kingman, is the Mohave County Fair and Chillin’ on Beale, a delightful low key evnt that centers on cars, cruising, music, and food. The latter takes place on the third Saturday evening of each month, rain or shine, April through October. Ramada Kingman offers a special package for the event that includes tickets to Grand Canyon Caverns.
This morning I had a most fascinating conversation with Larry Clonts, the director of the Economic Development Corporation in Shamrock, Texas. From linking tourism with economic development, a mural initiative, and installation of an electric vehicle charging station at the iconic U Drop Inn to creating a park centered on an authentic piece of the Blarney Stone, this is a community on the move. Harnessing the Route 66 renaissance as a catalyst for revitalization and development is transforming Shamrock, and I am quite excited to see the changes since our last visit in October of 2015.
Once again our Route 66 odyssey will be taking place in October. My dearest friend and I find this to be an ideal time for an adventure on the old double six; cool temperatures, fall colors, and great events such as Cuba Fest in Cuba, Missouri.
This year the fall tour schedule includes a presentation on Route 66 in the Southwest at the iconic Wagon Wheel Motel in Cuba, Friday evening, October 14. In addition, I will be speaking at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis the following Sunday and Monday.
On Monday, I will be participating in a conference call with the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative economic development committee. Updates on pertinent developments will be provided shortly afterwards.
Last evening we had a very productive meeting of the City of Kingman Historic Preservation Commission (I am a volunteer commissioner). Two landmark programs, one for sign restoration and preservation, and one for a building renovation and curb appeal project moved closer to implementation. If linked with the Route 66 Association of Kingman initiative to restore neon signage, it won’t be long before neon lit nights will transform the cities historic core into a destination.
Stephen LeSueur of Blue Sky Marketing is currently developing and upgrading a linked series of more than 150 Route 66 and Kingman area information websites. The first of these, a guide to Kingman restaurants (this is the link) went live last week. The reasonable advertising rates ensure a tremendous return on advertising dollar investment.
“Currently the pricing strategy is as follows: $59/mo for 10 Ads on 10 different sites $100/mofor 10 Ads on 10 different sites plus 1 Featured Listing $250/mo100 Ads on 100 different sites with a Featured Listing on each (All include graphic design for ad if not supplied)”
For more information contact Stephen LeSueur at (928)637-6127.
In the coming weeks the plan is to provide updates on the podcasts, a video series, the travel schedule, and upcoming events. Last but not least, in response to your inquiries, I do not have any details pertaining to a European Route 66 festival in 2017. However, I will make some inquiries and see what can be learned.
With establishment of the US highway system in the spring of 1926, it was signed as US 60. A bit of political compromise led to it being resigned as US 66 in November of that year. In that same year, dozens of former auto trails and “highways” such as the National Old Trails Highway, the Lincoln Highway, and the Dixie Highway were given a number emblazoned on a shield and incorporated into a vast national network that stretched from coast to coast and border to border.
Almost from its inception, the media spotlight was placed squarely on US 66. First with establishment of the US Highway 66 Association and then resultant of the “Bunion Derby” in 1928 that generated international media attention, largely resultant of Andy Payne, a Cherokee boy from Foyil, Oklahoma, a Route 66 community, an amateur underdog pitted against professionals. That accounts for the popularity of Route 66 in the 1920’s and even the 1930’s. The song by crooner Nat King Cole that topped the charts in the post World War II years accounts for its popularity in the 1940’s, but all of this occurred a very, very long time ago.
The first European Route 66 Festival, an historic first.
So, how did a highway signed with two sixes become an internationally recognized icon in the 21st century, a shrine to the American Dream, a magic place where the best of the American experience was refined, purified, and preserved? How did a simple American highway, a highway that officially no longer exists, become a phenomena that inspired the creation of Route 66 associations in more than a dozen countries and even a Route 66 festival in Germany?
The answer to that question is a long and complicated story that has provided fodder for countless books, feature articles, and presentations but understanding that popularity is key to harnessing the resurgent interest in the highway for event development or historic district revitalization. With that as an introduction, I want to continue our discussion about what this popularity means to communities large and small along the Route 66 corridor, and beyond. After all, the affect of Route 66 popularity is no longer limited to the towns, villages, and cities that line a narrow corridor between Chicago and Santa Monica. As an example, consider the economic impact on Oferdingen in Germany, the host city for the recent European Route 66 Festival, an historic first. There are two primary factors that hinder development of a Route 66 festival, or that impede utilization of interest in Route 66 as a catalyst for revitalization and economic development. One is a support structure that can provide assistance with marketing, promotion, fund raising, or templates for the revitalization of blighted districts along the highway corridor.
The historic district in Kingman, Arizona
Slowly, the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative is evolving to fill this void. In essence the goal for this entity is to serve as a sort of chamber of commerce for the Route 66 community. Even though the organization is largely developing under the radar, this link will provide access to the latest information, as well as quarterly reports. The second problem is a bit more complicated. It centers on leadership, or the lack thereof, egos, and caustic personalities that foster divisions. The Route 66 corridor is littered with examples of communities such as Tucumcari, Kingman, or Winslow that have everything needed to become the next Pontiac, Galena, Cuba, or Atlanta but yet they languish, develop at glacial speeds, or worse, stagnate and wither. In some communities, such as Albuquerque, a brilliant plan for economic development and revitalization of the Route 66 corridor that serves as a template for other communities to emulate can be derailed and even negated when a new administration assumes the leadership position, especially if they are so narrow minded that they can look down a beer bottle with both eyes.
Resolving any of these issues in a community hinges on leadership, an articulate and passionate individual with vision, a very thick hide, and the diplomatic skills needed to foster a sense of community and community purpose. They also need to be an individual who can put aside ego, share the spotlight, and that has the ability to inspire others to help bring the vision to fruition. My pa always said that good ideas were worth less than a pound of wind. Doing something with them, making them manifest is what gives them value. Put another way, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. If your looking to transform you community, begin with an examination of communities that miss the mark to learn what not to do. Then study the efforts, if any, that are being made to overcome or resolve issues. For graduate studies, then examine the success of communities such as Pontiac, and the people behind that success. As an example, spend a few days in Tucumcari, and speak with business owners. In spite of the success of the annual rockabilly festival, the ambition and vision of people like the Brenner’s at the Roadrunner Lodge, and the passion of the Mueller family at the iconic Blue Swallow Motel, you soon develop a sense that there is a lack of passionate vision about Route 66 in city government, and that some business owners would rather sabotage neighbors than put aside differences for the sake of the community or even for greater profits. Stifling or hindering development in some communities is the lack of a long term plan for development. Everything is done in a knee jerk, as needed fashion. More often than not, in these communities if there is an economic development plan, it is wholly divorced from tourism as if the two are mutually exclusive. In years past, such as in 1931 in Elk City, Oklahoma, the US Highway 66 Association would blend the fun and excitement of Route 66 with the business of Route 66 at an annual convention. In era of renaissance, the need is as great as it was in 1931 or 1950. Communities need tools, resources, and information, and leaders need support as well as inspiration. When the torch was passed from the National Historic Route 66 Federation to the Route 66 Alliance, there was a fledgling attempt to emulate this with an invitation only State of the Road conference included in the annual Route 66 international festival. When the Alliance abandoned support for, and development of, the annual festivals in 2014, the organizers for that years international festival in Kingman, Arizona transformed the event into the first modern incarnation of the old associations conventions from the 1930’s. Since that time, but without organization or support from a national organization, numerous communities have attempted to develop an event that combines the business of Route 66 with the fun and camaraderie that is the hallmark of the modern Route 66 community with varying degrees of success.
Renee Charles, left, and Melba Rigg at the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Edwardsville, Illinois.
This year Scott Piotrowski has attempted to blend these components in an event at the highways original western terminus in downtown Los Angeles to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Route 66, an event which could have the added bonus of introducing an entirely new demographic to the Route 66 renaissance. As the event will take place on November 11, it remains to see just how successful he will be. Even the recent Route 66 festival in Germany, an historic first, blended these elements of the early conventions. In this instance both the festival and conference were a success as a good time was had by one and all, and an international advisory group was established to assist the Route 66: The Road Ahead Initiative with development of coordinated marketing as well as promotion. Last year the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Edwardsville, Illinois took the concept a step further, and dependent on who talk with, did so rather successfully. This year the Miles of Possibilities Conference will take place in Bloomington, Illinois. While the business of Route 66 will dominate the event, there will be ample opportunity for fun and the camaraderie that is the essence of the modern Route 66 experience. Festivals abound throughout the Route 66 community every year and they are a crucial component in ensuring the roads popularity as well as recognition. Still, an annual convention is crucial, just as it was in the 1930’s if for no other reason than to provide the tools and resources needed for communities to harness the highways renaissance as a catalyst for development. What are your thoughts? Is a convention needed, an annual “Main Street of America” event that kicks off with two days of workshops and presentations before wrapping up with full blown festivities ?
The historic Summit Inn, a casualty of the Blue Cut fire.
Perhaps the dominant Route 66 related story this week is the loss of the Summit Inn in the Cajon Pass resultant of the Blue Cut fire. Even though its loss pales in comparison to the overall scope of this unfolding calamity, it is quite a blow for the Route 66 community. On a bit of a brighter note, I am quite pleased to announce a money saving offer from Ramada Kingman, the city’s only full service Route 66 resort. For a 10% discount on rooms as well as Kingman area promotional packages, simply use the code JIMHINCKLEY when making a call in reservation. I hope that this serves as added incentive to visit Kingman, and to discover the world of wonder in our neighborhood. As an example, one of the Ramada Packages includes free tickets for a Grand canyon Caverns tour, which would require a drive of sixty scenic miles along Route 66. In the coming weeks, as Jim Hinckley’s America broadens its reach and scope (after months of trial and error), there will be similar offers from other businesses, and marketing opportunities for businesses as well as for communities and event organizers. Expanding the scope (podcasts, video blogs, presentations, etc.) of Jim Hinckley’s America, a long pursued goal, is made possible by sponsors and advertisers. This week, I am pleased to announce the addition of My Marketing Designs, Save On Bath Treats, and Simply Prepaid from T-Mobil, the Kingman store, as sponsors. Now, I would like to share a few thoughts on communities that get it, those that don’t, and those that are starting to. This train of thought started with a brief tour of the Kingman historic district to showcase all of the recent developments followed by a very good dinner at the Dambar, and some stimulating conversation punctuated with a few laughs shared with Jessica and Nancy Mueller, one half of the family that provides the Blue Swallow Motel with such infectious vibrancy.
One topic of our conversation that was rather timely for me pertained to communities that steadfastly wait for their ship to come in while sitting in a train depot. In these tragic places opportunity flows into town on a daily basis but it never is moved from the docks. Even worse, resources are squandered on developing ways to profit from association with the railroad even though the rail line ends on the outskirts of town. As noted previously, communities located on Route 66, especially in the southwest, have at their fingertips almost unlimited marketing and promotional opportunities. As a bonus, by applying resources to development that makes the town a destination for tourists, the tourists will in turn magnify promotional initiatives rather dramatically. Surprisingly, a number of communities along the highway corridor see little or no value in developing Route 66 related marketing, or even giving the endless stream of Route 66 travelers a reason to do more than fill their car with gas or grab a bag of burgers on their way out of town. This is a bit extreme but here is an example of chasing nickels while dollars blow down the street. I recently attended a marketing meeting in Williams, Arizona on behalf of a client. The business owner that had called the meeting was looking to create a pooled resource marketing initiative. When I broached the subject of target marketing the international Route 66 community through this initiative, the abrupt and curt response was that this would be a complete waste of resources as Route 66 is irrelevant. I believe the exact words were something like, “A Route 66 market, why don’t I just sell my business and open an Edsel dealership?” Did I mention that this gentleman owned a business on Route 66, in WILLIAMS, ARIZONA? Incredibly, I have encountered similar attitudes at the city level when addressing chambers of commerce, city councils, and even tourism offices. The concept of pooled resource marketing is an idea that has intrigued me for quite some time, especially in regards to the possibilities it represents for Route 66 communities or business owners. I am currently following the progress of Kingman Circle, a similar concept but with a narrower focus. What, may I ask, are your thoughts about a similar initiative developed for the Route 66 community?
The iconic Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico
In the fall of 1862, Henry Wickenburg discovered gold in a hard rock outcropping of quartz. Riches didn’t come easy as extraction of the ore required financing, hard work, and miners. As it turned out, the Wickenburg discovery that became the Vulture Mine was one of the richest strikes in the Territory of Arizona. In the same year there was another major discovery of gold in the Arizona Territory. This time, however, fortune came easy. In just a few short weeks, Pauline Weaver and his party purportedly gathered more than $100,000 in gold nuggets from the slopes and washes on what became known as Rich Hill near present day Stanton, Arizona.
Many communities, including those along the Route 66 corridor, spend tens of millions of dollars on studies, improvement projects, and marketing. More often than not, the result is worthy of Wickenburg who ended up with $20,000 for a mine that eventually produced more than 340,000 ounces of gold, and 260,000 ounces of silver.
Any community can be transformed into a destination for travelers even though those located on Route 66, and especially on Route 66 in the southwest, have a distinct advantage. Moreover, the process of transforming a community into a destination for tourists, is closely tied to what is needed to make it a destination for people wanting to open a business or raise a family, or special place to enjoy retirement.
If a community is going to harness the Route 66 renaissance as a catalyst for development, the first step is realization that, as Bill Thomas of Atlanta, Illinois is fond of saying, not all economic development is tourism but all tourism is economic development. You might think that this is obvious, especially in communities along Route 66 in the southwest. Surprisingly, however, numerous municipalities seem to be blissfully unaware of the legions of French, German, Chinese, Australian, Italian, Dutch, British, and Japanese travelers that fill their restaurants, shop in their supermarkets, or spend the evening in their motels. In communities such as these, tourism and economic development are often viewed as separate components. More often than not, in these towns tourism is poorly staffed, poorly funded, and on occasion, usually consists of little more than a dusty museum staffed by elderly volunteers.
Within Route 66 communities that grasp the potential represented by the international fascination that has transformed the highway into a destination, overreaction is quite common. They invest heavily to transform the town into a caricature, an imitation of something from Disneyland or the movie Cars.
To continue with the gold rush analogy, visions of easy riches distort the reality. The cornerstone of the Route 66 renaissance is the quest for an authentic American experience, or at least one that meets the romanticized image of what that experience should be.
This is not to be confused with a realistic experience, an opportunity to relive the Route 66 of the Dust Bowl era by traveling across the Mojave Desert in an overloaded, wore out, cut down Hudson sedan.
A Czech tour group at Mr. D’z.
Using the Route 66 renaissance as a means for paving the streets with gold isn’t a complicated procedure. It becomes even easier if that community is nestled in the vast Technicolor landscapes of the American southwest. Credit for launching the rather dramatic transformation of Pontiac, Illinois, a town that has experienced six consecutive years of increased tourism, as well as the establishment of countless new businesses, is given to a retiree who would greet visitors with a roll of red carpet. In Galena, Kansas, a town of less than 4,000 people, it began with four women, a condemned service station, free bottled water, and a dream. Today, a town that recently had one functioning street light along the Route 66 corridor, has new restaurants, new sidewalks, new streetlights, pocket parks, and even a new state of the art medical center. The transformation of Seligman, and even the birth of the Route 66 renaissance is credited to a barber. Leadership, vision, outside of the box thinking, utilizing assets on hand, be they people, scenery, or history, and a willingness to seize opportunity can transform a community from a stop into a destination. Transforming a community into a destination ensures a future bright with promise. Will your community forever be a stop on the way to somewhere else, or will it become a destination?