A nearly packed house for my presentation about Route 66 in Arizona at the Performing Arts Center in Apache Junction, Arizona, and attendance of the recent Route 66 Info Fair in Needles, California make it abundantly clear that the infectious magic of iconic Route 66 is igniting a passion for road trips. For me personally these events bod well for a very busy year as I share America’s story and tell people where to go.
When elected mayor of Needles, last year Janet Jernigan made it quite clear that she wanted to see a renaissance in the historic heart of the city that is dominated by the picturesque historic El Garces depot and hotel complex. In spite of a few unforeseen glitches the 2022 Route 66 Info Fair was a success. And as an example of leadership with vision, Jernigan and her team have already announced a date and provided preliminary details for the Route 66 Ino Fair scheduled for February 10, 2024.
“The 3rd Annual Route 66 Info Fair at the El Garces in Needles. This popular event will once again feature Route 66 vendors and businesses, El Garces tours and speaker presentations. Next year’s fair will add an art show in the west end of the El Garces and craft fair in the Santa Fe Park. Make your 2024 plans to include Needles on your calendar.”
The Route 66 Info Fair this past Saturday was a winner in my book. Aside from an opportunity to visit with old friends, a hallmark of these Route 66 events that are almost like a family reunion, it was a wonderful opportunity to inspire road trips, and to help people plan a memorable adventure on storied Route 66.
Thanks to sponsors of Jim Hinckley’s America, including the City of Tucumcari, and supporters from Cuba, Missouri, Amarillo, Texas, Atlanta, Illinois, and the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, I had an array of promotional materials to share including visitors guides. This greatly enhanced my ability to lend assistance with travel planning.
A hit at our display was a plaque that allowed us to demonstrate the narrated, Kingman Arizona historic district self guided tour developed by Kingman Main Street. I am hoping that people will be inspired to use it as a template for a similar project that assists in the revitalization of the historic district in their community.
The rich and colorful diversity of the Route 66 renaissance was on full display at the event in Needles. It also reflected the growing trend in showing Route 66 as a direct connection between past, present and even the future.
Si Garcia of the Fort Mojave Tribe performed traditional bird songs. Historical renactor Debbie Miller Marschke did a superb impression of Olive Oatman, and shared Oatman’s amazing story. Wade Bray of SRO Productions shared a video from the 2022 AAA Route 66 Road Fest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and answered questions about the 2023 fest scheduled for June 23 – 25. Mike Thornton gave tours of the El Garces and brought the history of the complex to life with his passion for the property and for Needles.
The old double six has been charming people for nearly a century. Tourism directors in communities along the Route 66 corridor that ignore or that shrug off the popularity of that highway do so to their detriment. The old double six just may be more popular than at any time in its history. And with the centennial fast approaching I would be willing to bet my bottom dollar that this popularity is going to grow exponentially.