When Beth and Paul of Kingman Main Street first approached me, I was taking sunrise photos for a project at the desert oasis of Beale Springs near Kingman, Arizona. They had an idea for a project that would enhance tourism, and that would transform the community through the building of cooperative partnerships.
As it turned out, it was a concept that had been simmering in my mind since 2014 when Carolyn Hasenfratz had introduced me to QR codes during a discussion at the International Route 66 Festival in Kingman. Over time the idea had evolved in my thoughts.
On occassion I had shared the idea during informal conversations with friends, and during my tenure on various committees. But the timing wasn’t right. And obviously I hadn’t been able to articulate the idea in a manner that ignited excitement. Even efforts to sell it to the tourism office had fallen on deaf ears.
I was hooked before they completed their pitch. And that was the first step in transforming the dream of a Kingman, Arizona narrated, self guided hsistoric district walking tour into a reality. Now the dream is to use it as a template for other communities.
But Beth and Paul had another idea. They wanted to link the tour with a public arts project. And that was the bombshell that I had trouble with. That was the component that needed lots of thought and discussion with my dearest friend before I could give it the green light.
Well, that was about 18 months ago. Phase one of the walking tour with 35 points of interest is complete. The first dozen are being unveiled during National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities. The remainder will be installed in a week or so, and then work will begin on phase two.
Also scheduled for unveiling during the festivities is a bronze statue of me created by internationally acclaimed sculptress J. Anne Butler. I am honored and humbled. But it took some very deep soul searching to agree to this.
Kingman has association to some pretty legendary names worthy this type of recognition. Front Street, the Route 66 corridor was renamed Andy Devine Avenue in 1955. Devine, a legendary character actor, gre up in Kingman. His father owned the Hotel Beale.
Artist and author Bob Boze Bell claims Kingman as his boyhood home. A display of his work as well as family heirlooms associated with Kingman history are on display at the Powerhouse Visitor Center.
So, to see such an honor bestowed upon me is a bit overwhelming. There is a surreal sense of attending my own funeral.
The statue will be the center piece of the newly created Depot Plaza at the historic railroad depot along Route 66. The plaza will also include the Route 66 Walk of fame that had been introduced at the 2014 festival, and abandoned a year or so later.
The plaza, seeing the walking tour idea coming to fruition, and the statue is invigorating. But nothing excites me more than the sense of community that has come about through this.
I have been deeply involved in an array of community development projects in Kingman since at least 1994. That was the year, working with Scott Dunton, we established the Kingman Route 66 Association. Some endeavors were successful. Some fell flat. Aside from the 2014 festival, nothing has fostered such a passionate response.
Beth and Paul, and the Kingman Main Street team tirelessly worked to build cooperative partnerships. Organizations and individuals, the city of Kingman and the tourism office, all became passionate supporters. And that bodes well for the future.
One person can change the world. One person can make a difference. But only if they can inspire, only if they can build passionate partnerships united in a common goal. But only if they can give credit where credit is due. Only if they can be leaders that inspire. Only if they can sell the dream.