Daily the evidence mounts that the Route 66 centennial will be a banner year for communities along that highway corridor.The number of requests for interviews, and inquiries about my availability to assist with tour development or to speak at an event are growing exponentially.
In 1926 it was simply one of the roads in the newly minted U.S. highway system. But by 1950 it was without a doubt the most famous highway in America. And today that fame has spread throughout the world even though officially Route 66 no longer exists.
For me personally, Route 66 was one of the highways that we followed west on our journey from Virginia in the summer of ’59. And in June of 1966, it was the primary highway that we traveled in our epic move from Michigan to Kingman, Arizona. Then, for the next few years, it was a part of annual pilgrimage to visit with family in Michigan, in Tennessee and in Alabama.
Along an old alignment of that highway in the shadow of the Black Mountains is where my family built a homestead of sorts. And it was on that cracked, sun baked pavement that I learned to ride a bicycle and to drive.
So, for me, this old highway is truly something special. Judging by the international interest in the old double six, and the infectious excitement about the fast approaching centennial, I am not alone.
Iconic Route 66 is now viewed as the quintessential American road trip. It is America’s longest small town, a living history museum, and where dreams are made manifest. And as I have quipped often, it is an almost magical place where the line between past and present is blurred.
With a bit of retrospect I can see that my life long association with this old highway, and the people that worked in the motels and diners, that drove the trucks, that spawned its renaissance, and the people that travel it has been the inspiration for a series of projects that evolved into Jim Hinckley’s America.
Tourism Dollars and Cents
Bill Thomas of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership succinctly summed up the importance of torusim with a simple statement. “Not all economic development is tourism, but all tourism is economic development.” For Route 66 communities the potential for tourism related economic development is magnified at least ten fold. And for communities are making plans to tap into Route 66 centennial celebrations it is magnified a hundred fold.
Surprisingly many communities along the highway corridor have yet to grasp the importance of Route 66 centennial related tourism in long term economic development planning. Some of them have yet to even grasp the potential represented in Route 66. Confirmation of this was derived from a recent review of official tourism websites in a select number of communities.
COVID and related travel restrictions as well as lockdowns were a hard knock for small business owners, and for communities. But unprecedented opportunity is knocking. It is the Route 66 centennial.
Here at Jim Hinckley’s America we are offering our services to assist communities as well as small business owners interested in capitalizing in the fast approaching centennial. For more information, or to discuss specific needs and services, drop us a note.