A New Era on Route 66
If a community is to become a destination for people looking for a place to raise a family, to retire, and to open a business it must be first transformed into a destination for travelers and tourists. That transformation includes appealing streetscapes, a diverse array of restaurants, a vibrant arts district, an historic district that reflects community pride, parks, out door recreational opportunities such as hiking trails, development of diverse events, and displays of public art.
The public arts project and narrated self guided historic walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street that was unveiled this past Friday during the National Road Trip Day proclamation festivities was a major step toward making a Kingman a destination. This was part of the block party organized by the city’s tourism office that included live music, a car show on Route 66 (Andy Devine Avenue), a band from Las Vegas, and an outdoor beer garden in the shadow of the historic Hotel Beale.
Comments made about the walking tour during the event give clear indication that it will be popular with visitors, with new residents and with people that have called Kingman home for decades. Even in its embryonic form it will have a direct impact on foot traffic in the historic heart of the city.
With completion of phase one in a few weeks business owners should see a marked increase in the number of people exploring the district. Just this morning Sabine Sumsisum of Germany posted a video about Kingman’s newest attraction on YouTube, and shared it to her Facebook page. The 2LaneLife team was in town for the unveiling and National Road Trip Day festivities, and their Facebook posting about the event shared yesterday has been viewed more than 100 times.
Kingman Main Street also revived the Route 66 Walk of Fame that had been abandoned shortly after its introduction at the 2014 International Route 66 Festival. The new walk of fame is included in the Depot Plaza created by the City of Kingman for the National Road Trip Day event. And that too will enhance the city’s appeal as a destination.
The key to the projects success was organizers that were able to share an infectious passionate enthusiasm that manifested in a diverse array of cooperative partnerships with a shared vision. Business owners, volunteers, community leaders, civic organizations, and Route 66 enthusiasts banded together in an impressive display of community spirit.
The statue created by J. Anne Butler and the walking tour were just one manifestation of the grassroots initiatives that are transforming Kingman and that are building a sense of community as well as community purpose. Building on the Friday evening events that kicked off with the official proclamation made by Marlo Anderson of National Day Calendar, Gene Kirkham arranged for an informal cruise along Route 66 with stops at Antares Point, Hackberry General Store and Grand Canyon Caverns on Saturday. And to enhance the celebration of the great American road trip on iconic Route 66, arrangements were made with the Seligman Chamber of Commerce and West Side Lilo’s restaurant to welcome everyone who participated.
In an effort to transform the single evening event into a three day celebration, arrangements were also made with store owners and the chamber of commerce in Oatman, Arizona for a special event on Sunday. The goal was to place Kingman at the center of three days of events that showcased the road trip, Route 66, and the city as a destination.
National Day Calendar initially approached the Kingman tourism office about making the official National Road Trip Day proclamation in the city back in 2020. However, the pandemic resulted in postponement. Then last year when it was rescheduled for May 2022, Kingman Main Street initiated plans for the walking tour and public arts project to debut during the National Road Trip Day festivities.
Plans are already being discussed for an even larger event Road Trip Day event in 2023. And there are also discussions about expansion of the walking tour in coming months. Even though the National Road Trip day proclamation festivities took place just a few days ago, indications are that, as with the 2014 International Route 66 Festival, the event will have a long term impact on the City of Kingman. And just as with the 2014 festival that was the catalyst for the European Route 66 festivals and establishment of the annual Miles of Possibillity Conference, the recent event in Kingman will have an impact on the entire Route 66 corridor.