100 Years

On Beale Street, one block off Route 66, a renaissance is infusing the historic business district with an infectious vibrancy. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

A centennial is 100 years. In 2026 the most famous highway in the United States, iconic Route 66, the Main Street of America, will be 100 years old, and people from throughout the world are already making plans for a pilgramage to celebrate this centennial milestone. And communities beween Chicago and Santa Monica are hard at work to capitalize on what promises to be America’s longest block party.

But there will be another historic event to celebrate as well. In 2026, unless the modern incarnation of the 1850s Know Nothing party succeeds in burning the place down. It will be the semiquincentennial, the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

This historic milestone will give communities another reason to celebrate. And for the event organizer, or community leader, with vision, ambition, passion and the ability to build cooperative partnerships, the two anniversaries will provide unprecendented opportunities.

Welcome To Kingman

On Beale Street an unfolding renaissance is infusing the historic heart of Kingman, Arizona with an infectious vibrancy. Just in time for the forthcoming anniversaries, that transformation is now sweeping along Andy Devine Avenue, iconic Route 66, and surrounding residential neighborhoods. It is almost as though the hands of time are being turned back.

Passionate entrepreneurs that recognize the opportunities are giving derelict buildings a new lease on life. The City of Kingman has launched an expansive downtown infrastructure improvement project that will make the area pedestrian friendly without impeding traffic. Organizations such as Kingman Main Street are developing projects such as the innovative narrated self guided walking tour. A thriving arts community is being manifest in events, in new galleries, and in the restoration of the Beale Street Theatre as a performing arts center.

Destination Kingman

Visitors are taking notice, and the city is on the cusp of becoming a destination. Roberto Rossi, an Italian travel journalist recently paid a visit to Kingman. He noted, “Ho avuto la fortuna di visitare Kingman insieme al mio amico James Hinckley che ci ha portati alla scoperta degli angoli nascosti di questa splendida cittadina.” “I was lucky enough to visit Kingman with my friend James Hinckley who took us to discover the hidden corners of this beautiful city.”

And he listed a few things that make Kingman unique.

“2. Downtown Kingman – Walking through historic downtown Kingman is a time trip. Admire the historic buildings and enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants, many of which keep Route 66’s golden years spirit.
3. Events and Festivals – Kingman is known for its events along Route 66, including the “Andy Devine Days Rodeo” and the monthly “Chillin’ on Beale Street,” which offers live entertainment, vintage cars and delicious food.”

The Centennial And Beyond

As we draw closer to the mega anniversary celebrations in 2026, event organizers will have an opportunity to provide the visitor with an authentic experience that is a primary attraction for visitors. And by 2026, with completion of the theatre renovation, the infrastructure project, and facade renovations, organizers of popular events such as The Original Chillin on Beale will have an opportunity to create multifacted marketing. They will be able to showcase the diverse array of restaurants, microbreweries, and historic architecture as well as attractions such as the narrated self guided tour developed by Kingman Main Street.
A diverse array of events held in the historic heart of the city will further fuel the renaissance in the historic heart of Kingman. That will ensure Kingman is a destination for visitors, for entrepreneurs and people looking for opportunity to the Route 66 centennial and beyond.
As Kingman is my adopted hometown, and the foundation for Jim Hinckley’s America, it has been a distinct honor to play a role in the transformation. And it has me looking toward the future with eager anticipation.





The Route 66 Centennial

The Route 66 Centennial

Screenshot of the Route 66 Experience from Ace Sign Company website.

In 2026 the Route 66 centennial will spark the largest block party in American history. In preperation of this mega event the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield is about to unveil the Route 66 Experience that was developed in partnership with Ace Sign Company.

This will be the cornerstone for the city’s expansive Route 66 centennial celebrations. In 2026, Springfield will also be hosting a special Miles of Possibility Conference, the only annual conference that is focused on the business of Route 66.

100 Years of Adventure

This iconic old road is not our most scenic highway, nor its most historic. But since at least early 1927 when the U.S. Highway 66 Association was formed to lobby state and federal governments for paving it from end to end, and to market it as America’s Main Street, it has had the best publicity.

Evidence of the roads popularity, and the growing interest in the Route 66 centennial, can be found in communities between Chicago and Santa Monica. You can see it in events such as the recent AAA Route 66 Road Fest in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can see it with companies that are initiating marketing special tours in 2026. And you can see it in social media groups where people are asking questions, and making plans to travel the road with like minded friends.

Jim Hinckley’s America

As Jim HInckley’s America is rooted in my association with Route 66 that dates to 1959, it is not surprising that the number of inquiries for information, and the requests for interviews, is growing exponentially. But as to my plans for the centennial, I don’t have anything set in stone.

My primary focus at thist time is what it has always been – sharing America’s story and inspiring road trips by telling people where to go.  A facet of this is building a series of linked platforms to assist event organizers, grass roots initiatives and tourism offices.

One of these is the weekly podcast, Coffee With JimReach and engagement shows steady growth. And this makes sponsors happy.

Illustrating the vision for the podcast is the guest list for upcoming programs. On Sunday, July 30, Wade Bray will be joining me to talk about the Route 66 centennial. He is the designer behhind the new interactive Angel Degadillo exhibit at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman, Arizona. He has also developed the annual AAA Route Road Fest in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The following Sunday, I will be joined by Joe Sonderman. Sonderman is a prolific author, as well as an historian that has a deep knowledge about St. Louis that he shares passionately. He also serves on the board of directors for the Route 66 Association of Missouri.

And then on August 13, we turn our focus to the past, present and future of the electric vehicle. Our guests will be Roderick Wilde and Kent Bakke of the Historic Electrice Vehicle Foundation. This organization is in the process of establishing an electric vehicle museum, and educational facility, along Route 66 in Kingman.

Steve Roth of Quatro Publising joins me on the 20th to discuss the changing face of publishing. And, of course, we will also be talking about Route 66 books and how their popularity is linked to the Route 66 centennial.

What Are Your Plans?

Do you have plans for the Route 66 centennial? If so, we would like to hear about them, and how we might be able to assist.



The VIP Treatment

The VIP Treatment

The historic courthouse in Pontiac, Illinois is the centerpiece of an historic business district with a palpable and infectious vibrancy. ©Jim Hinckley’s America

The 19th century courthouse in Pontiac, Illinois is an architectural gem. Casting long shadows across the square is a towering monument to honor Civil War veterans of Livingston County. Mayor Rathbun and President Theodore Roosevelt officiated at the dedication ceremony on June 3, 1903.

Pontiac is a village steeped in history that is infused with an infectious vibrancy. Colorful murals, an eclectic array of museums and shops in the historic business district, and pride in its association with Route 66 are manifestations of the dynamic enthusiasm that has transformed Pontiac into one of the states leading destination cities.

Learning Something New

Officially the population of Pontiac nestled along Route 66 in Illinois is 11,359 people. But not all of the residents enjoy the diverse array of restaurants. And many of them never skip the special events at the museums or in the parks on the Vermillion River that are connected by three historic picturesque foot bridges. Some of the residents counted in the census are guests of the state of Illinois at the nearby Pontiac Correctional Center.

That was one of the tidbits that I learned during the fascinating conversation with Liz Vincent, Pontiac’s passionate tourism director, on the May 21, 2023 episode of Coffee With Jim.

There are so many exciting things taking place, and that are being planned as we draw closer to the Route 66 centennial, in Pontiac that it almost makes the head spin. No wonder Pontiac was selected to host the official National Road Trip Day celebration this year!

Vision and Leadership

Leadership with vision and leadership with the ability to inspire diverse groups to work toward a common goal will transform a community. The speed of that transformation is directly linked to the leaders understanding about the role of tourism in economic development.

Walking the streets in Pontiac it is hard to imagine that until just a few years ago this was a fast fading midwestern farming community. The historic heart of Pontiac with dozens of empty storefronts had a ghost town feel.

That was then. Today at every turn the visitor finds evidence of a strong sense of community. Visitors are welcomed so warmly thoughts of relocation sonn dance in your head.

And there is also a plethora of innovative promotional and marketing ideas on display. As an example, consider the VIP (Visitor In Pontiac) program that was discussed with Liz on the Coffee With Jim podcast. Promotional material sums up the program simply.

If you are a community organizer or elected representative with a hunger to see your community transformed I can highly recommend a field trip to Pontiac. And if possible, schedule some time to visit with Liz.

At Jim Hinckley’s America we tell people where to go and we share America’s story. We also inspire road trips, and through programs such as Coffee With Jim, lend a hand to folks that want to transform their community into a destination.

The Phoenix – Part Two

The Phoenix – Part Two

The National Old Trails Highway at the dawning of Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona

In the summer of 1966, there was an endless stream of traffic along Route 66 in front of Desert Drug. With its creaky old wooden floors and heady smell of perfume, cigars, and soap, the drugstore as well as the neighboring Frontier Bar and Frontier Cafe were relics from another time. So was Jan’s Soda Fountain in Kingman Drug.

Desert Drug is where I fueled a growing fascination with the romanticism of the southwest and tales of lost treasure by thumbing through magazines such as True West until the clerk asked me to buy or leave. My memories of the soda fountain are more poignant.

For a young boy transplanted to the desert southwest from the hills of Alabama and Tennessee it was a refuge on a hot summers afternoon. As a young man a seat at the counter under the clanking ceiling fan was often where I whiled away a lunch hour. And when my dearest friend and I were courting more than forty years ago, our dates often included a bite to eat at the soda fountain and a movie at the State Theater.

Changing Times

Well, traffic still flows along Andy devine Avenue, Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona. But it is a trickle rather than a torrent. A parking lot, bus stop and informational kiosk restored and maintained by Kingman Main Street have replaced the Frontier Cafe, Frontier Bar and Desert Drug. El Palacio restaurant has replaced Kingman Drug and the soda fountain. These and so many other landmarks of my youth live on in sepia tioned photos, memories, and the narrated self guided historic walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street.

Like it or not, times change. Between 1930 and 1950, just like with Route 66, Kingman changed rather dramatically. And the Kingman of 1966 was not the Kingman of 1950, 1980, or 2000. With the city council giving the green light to the implementation of the Downtown Infrastructure Design Project on May 16, the historic heart of the city will experience the most dynamic transformation since the Route 66 bypass.

The rerouting of traffic around town on I40 in the early 1980s sparked a slow motion downward spiral that decimated the Route 66 corridor and downtown Kingman. Stores closed. Buildings were razed after succumbing to years abandonment. In 2014 the International Route 66 Festival served as a catalyst for renaissance but the transformation was almost glacial. Now, with implementation of this infrastructure project there will be a dramatic acceleration.

The Renaissance

The project will once again restore a sense of continuity to the historic business district. And in turn this will give the city a recognizable identity. It will resolve infrastructure gaps and deficiencies caused by decades of piecemeal repairs and improvements. It will preserve the unique historic character of Kingman while accommodating the needs of modern traffic, bicyclists, and pedestrians. And the city’s display of commitment represented by the project will instill confidence in potential investors.

From public arts projects and the refurbishment of buildings to the opening of new businesses, there is evidence that the historic heart of the city, like the mythical Phoenix, is rising from the ashes. With completion of the infrastructure project downtown Kingman will once again become a destination for locals, for visitors, and just in time for the Route 66 centennial, for people traveling Route 66 in search of America.




The Route 66 Centennial

Pontiac in Illinois is a town where the lick and promise approach isn’t good enough, and it shows. Photo Jim Hinckley’s America

When it comes to utilizing tourism as a catalyst for economic development, and historic district revitalization, towns in the American southwest have a distinct advantage. And if those communities happen to be on Route 66, those opportunities are magnified exponentially, especially with the highways centennial fast approaching.

So, what do communities along this storied highwway need to do to capitalize on the Route 66 centennial?

After publication of The Grapes of Wrath in 1939, Route 66 was billed as the Mother Road. Prior to that, in 1927, the U.S. Highway 66 Association borrowed a slogan from a 1913 promotion for the National Old Trails Road, and began marketing Route 66 as the Main Street of America.

From its inception the highway signed with a double six has had tremendous promotion and publicity and as a result, Route 66 is one of the most iconic highways in America. Depending on which alignment is followed, the highway stretches for 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. It cuts through the heartland of America as it passes through eight states.

Certified as a U.S. highway on November 11, 1926, Route 66 has morphed into a symbol of freedom, adventure and opportunity. For legions of international enthusiasts it has come to represent the quintessential American road trip.

As a result, in 2026, many states, communities, and organizations are already making plans to capitalize on the centennial. Promotion of special centennial events and activities, Facebook groups that are organizing centennial cruises, and an increasing focus of media on Route 66 indicate that this historic milestone will have a tremendous economic impact on communities along the highway corrdior.

Route 66 corridor signage in Illinois is an example that can be emulated all along the Route 66 corridor. ©Jim HInckley’s America

The Route 66 Centennial Commission Act, signed into law by President Biden on December 23, 2020, established a 15-member commission from each of the eight Route 66 states to coordinate and promote the centennial celebration. The commission will also be tasked with assisting in the production of various materials, films and documentaries to chronicle the history, the culture, and legacy of Route 66.

What can communities along Route 66 do to capitalize on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity? How can they use the centennial to attract more visitors, generate more revenue, to revitalize blighted historic business districts, and as a catalyst for the creation of long term economic development initiatives? Here are some suggestions base on successful projects and initiatives:

Enhance and revitalize Route 66 signage

One of the first projects approved by the Oklahoma Route 66 Centennial Commission was to improve and update the historic Route 66 signage throughout the state.  Illinois has developed signage that clearly designates the course of Route 66, what years an alignment was in use, and what segments are designated bicycle corridors. Rich Dinkela, president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri pioneered the use of templates to paint the Route 66 shield directly on pavement, with the years of use.

Other states should follow suit and make sure their signs are visible, accurate and well-maintained. This will help drivers navigate the route more easily and safely, as well as create a more authentic and consistent experience.

Promote and participate, and develop, Route 66 events

Even though the centennial is still several years away, many events and activities are already being developed to celebrate the centennial. Other annual events, such as the AAA Route 66 Road Fest, have been developed to capitalize on the centennial.

Recognizing the economic potential of such events, in some communities tourism departments and organizers are creating festivals such as the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival in Springfield, Missouri that bolster historic district revitalization initiatives and support local businesses. Surprisingly some events, such as the Kingman 66 Fest, are being developed with plans to grow the festival into a major centennial celebration, but yet they are severed from existing events, and do not support historic district businesses.

A number of organizations are providing free event promotion to magnify marketing of these festivals. And at Jim Hinckley’s America, there is no charge for having an event promoted on our website. Communities should use events to foster development of a a sense of community. And to successfully market an event, promotion should commence at least 18 months in advance. Marketing should be developed using community tourism websites and social media network.

Author Jim Hinckley with a Dutch group traveling Route 66 at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman, Arizona. ©

These promotions should also be developed as a cooperative partnership linked with Route 66 associations and groups. And if a community has a personage with name recognition, their inclusion with personalize marketing initiatives. Marketing should also be developed as a collaboration with nearby communities and organizations to create regional or thematic events that showcase their unique area attractions and stories.

Preserve and showcase Route 66 landmarks

Route 66 is rich with historic landmarks, such as motels, diners, gas stations, museums, bridges, murals and sculptures. But there are also natural or scenic atractions, and historic sites that predate Route 66.

These landmarks not only tell the story of Route 66, but also reflect the unique culture and identity of each community. Communities should preserve and restore these landmarks as much as possible. These can be highlighted on maps, brochures and in projects such as the narrated self gudied tour in Kingman, Arizona developed by Kingman Main Street.

They should also seek recognition from national or state historic preservation programs or agencies, such as the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program or the National Historic Route 66 Federation.

Other Points to Consider

– Develop and diversify Route 66 attractions. While preserving the past is important, communities should also look to the future and develop new attractions that appeal to modern travelers. An example would be the Historic Electric Vehicle Association museum and conference center being developed in Kingman, Arizona.

These attractions could include outdoor recreation, arts and crafts, local cuisine, craft beer and wine, live music, sports or wellness. Communities should also diversify their offerings to cater to different segments of visitors, such as families, couples, seniors or international tourists. They should also leverage their existing assets and resources, such as natural scenery, cultural diversity or historical significance.

– Connect and network with Route 66 stakeholders. This is crucial.

Communities along Route 66 are not alone in their efforts to capitalize on the centennial. There are many other stakeholders who share their interests and goals, such as state travel and tourism offices, Route 66 associations, chambers of commerce, historical societies, museums, businesses and media outlets. Communities should connect and network with these stakeholders to exchange information, ideas and best practices. They should also join or support national or regional initiatives that aim to promote and preserve Route 66, such as the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership or the Oklahoma Route 66 Centennial Commission.

The Route 66 centennial is a great opportunity for communities along the Main Street of America to showcase their history, culture and charm to a wider audience. By enhancing their signage, promoting their events, preserving their landmarks, developing their attractions and connecting with their stakeholders, they can make the most of this occasion and ensure that Route 66 remains a vibrant and vital part of America for generations to come.