The Lope: A Look Back at the 2007 National Route 66 Festival

Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Look Back at the 2007 National Route 66 Festival

As the 2006 Route 66 Preservation Foundation's Official Route 66 Festival '08 begins today in Litchfield, Illinois, I am reminded of all the neat people I met last year when the festival was in Clinton, Oklahoma. Here is some information on the most recent festival for those thinking of going this year, and a set of memories for those who attended in 2007.

Route 66 caresses the hills east of Clinton, Oklahoma. Amid the sounds of crickets and frogs, one can hear the jake brakes of trucks on nearby I-40, as they drop out of warp speed to go into the town.

We were in Clinton in June, 2007 for the National Route 66 Festival, a meeting of various state Route 66 officials, authors, artists, bloggers and just plain dedicated tourists...and a good excuse for a party in this town of about 8,500. All in all, it was a great cross-section of people who enjoyed travel on the Mother Road enough to come from as far away as Belgium and Australia to meet others of the same passion. I'll introduce you to a few of them.

You might think that the name "National Route 66 Festival" would imply the existence of a strong national organization; I did. There is one, the National Historic Route 66 Federation, "The nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Route 66 across the country", but after a laudable series of accomplishments for preservation, the federation has attrited its efforts.

After a summit of the various organizations from states through which the Mother Road passes, the idea of a new national organization may have gained steam. Here, Wallis speaks at the meeting. Read more at Route 66 News. Perhaps a day or so into the 2008 festival, there'll be more news.

Swa Frantzen, Route 66 enthusiast and native of Belgium, made the point that the lack of a central organization for Route 66 is confusing for some Europeans.

Frantzen, webmaster of, is a pioneer, having started the first big Route 66 website back in 1994 when the Internet was something only your most nerdy friends had, and generally only at their offices. Yahoo did an nice interview with him here. Behind him, you can see Clinton's Frisco Center, where most indoor festival activities took place. By the way, that's Bob Waldmire's van in the background.

At the Artists and Authors Expo inside the Frisco Center were a number of authors of books of which I've grown rather fond. I was able to meet Jerry McClanahan, author of Route 66: EZ66 Guide for Travelers.

This is the map book I've used for Route 66 since my Illinois trip in 2006. I like it so much that I have two copies - one that I keep in the car for actual travel and another by the computer for figuring out where I've been.

McClanahan decorated my much used and abused EZ Guide with his character, "Rootie." he also paints; there's a nice yahoo video of him talking about his artwork here.

And maps are important. The banner on Frisco Street in front of S&D Drug states "You're on Historic Route 66", but you aren't.

However, wandering off the path has its rewards, such as enjoying a fine malt at the drug store's lunch counter and soda fountain with a nice lady. Darla Upchurch worked at S&D drug in the fountain back in 1950-51, when it was at a previous location. It moved to its current spot in 1987. Dig the sparkly upholstery. Employees of the store told me the booths dated to 50s or 60s.

I've always considered the grill cheese sandwich to be the yardstick of a lunch counter. Thus, I respect the store's retired grill.

Back at the Frisco Center, I met Russell Olsen, photographer of Route 66 Lost & Found: Ruins and Relics Revisited and Route 66 Lost & Found: Ruins and Relics Revisited, Volume 2.

The state of Oklahoma tourism folks had a nice display, featuring one of my favorite motel signs, the Skyliner in Stroud.

Drew Knowles, of the website, Route 66 University and author of Route 66 Adventure Handbook: Updated and Expanded Third Edition (Route 66 Series).

Not everything worthy of note on Route 66 is old. Jessica Acock is Marketing Manager for Pops convenience store.

The googie-style convenience store was under construction in Arcadia, OK at the time and has since opened. It features a giant pop bottle out front. Here it is last year on April 26.

Speaking of pop, Scott Cameron, President of Route 66 Sodas and his son, Matt, passed through Clinton twice during the festival while delivering their wares.

We enjoyed some of their product last year at Funk's Grove, IL.

Rod Harsh of, based in Carterville, MO, was shooting a documentary on the festival.

Harsh has opened a Route 66 visitor center in Carterville, MO, and advocates for more and better Route 66 directional signage in southwest Missouri.

Acting editor of the magazine, Route 66 Pulse, Bill Gates (left) interviewed me and ran the story here. It was a pleasure to meet Gates and his wife Bobbie Reed.

And now, another little "aside" of Clinton Oklahoma, the Howe Motors muffler man . I believe this is the only Indian version of the muffler man that is on Route 66. I asked owner David Howe if there had ever been any criticism of the huge fiberglass stereotype. He said that, somewhat to his surprise, there hadn't.

I know that muffler men have many fans (me, for one), so there are more pictures here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Clinton also has the adaptively re-used Redland Theatre. See a bit more of the landscape around the town, here.

And now, back to people I met at the 2007 festival..

Jan Howard Finder (a.k.a. Wombat) of the blog It Comes From Albany is an interesting fellow. He sums up his interest in Route 66: "It is never too late to have a happy childhood."

Aside from his interest in Route 66, he organized symposiums on J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth in 1969 and 1971. The papers presented at those occasions resulted in the book, A Tolkien Compass.

I remember reading it in the late 70's and found my yellowed copy for this scan.

On a different literary note, observe the cover art for "Love-starved and lonely she drove." Time was that 60 cents would buy you some Route 66 "literature" to enjoy in those isolated motel rooms. Actually, memorabilia exhibitor Joe Sonderman of Hazelwood, MO says he's read "Nude on Route 66" and it's no spicier than a modern romance novel.

Husband and wife Ron Warnick and Emily Priddy share a passion for Route 66. I'd previously met Priddy a couple weeks prior at Riverton. It has been my pleasure to contribute photos and information to Warnick's Route 66 News website on occasion. Personally, I can't see leaving on any Route 66 trip without checking his site for the latest news of whatever my destination might be.

I asked Priddy how she came to be involved with Route 66 and she wrote "I fell in love with Route 66 about eight years ago, when my husband and I -- both roadside kitsch junkies -- made a pilgrimage to the Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Mo., as part of our ongoing effort to visit the Seven Wonders of Roadside America. We got a set of HERE IT IS! maps and took the old road from the St. Louis area -- where we lived at the time -- to northeastern Oklahoma. Eight miles west of Rolla, on a dead-end alignment of 66 that paralleled I-44, I got my first glimpse of John's Modern Cabins and promptly fell in love with Route 66. We've been traveling, photographing, promoting, and trying to preserve the road ever since. Our love of 66 eventually led us to Tulsa, where we moved into a house six blocks off the road. I currently work for the Red Fork Main Street program -- which promotes the Route 66 corridor in southwest Tulsa -- during the week. On weekends, I cruise 66 to Stroud to flip burgers and chicken-fried steak at the historic Rock Cafe." (The Rock Cafe recently burned)

Here's Priddy, scraping paint on the former Ray's Motel on Route 66 in Clinton. She helped organize a face lift for the structure as part of a workshop during the festival. The woman has more roles than I can keep count of, including author of "Route 66 for Kids". It seems that a good portion of the time I google a Route 66 restoration project, her name pops up. Read part of her account of the Ray's project, here.

Ace pitched in with a scraper. Photographer Lonnie Powers shot this for the official event photography studio, Blunck's Photography. I bought a few photos, as I've shot a lot of special events myself and found their prices quite reasonable.

Here's Ray's, after most of the scraping but before the painting.

A view of Ray's that same day, from across Route 66.

Two days later, it's been completely repainted and pretty much immune from being called an eyesore. Time has been bought for another fading Route 66 motel building.

Bob Waldmire, Carol Duncan, Emily Priddy and Ron Warnick pose at the finished project. Duncan, an officer with the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, is the person who found Ray's as a preservation project for the festival.

I was readying Ace for a photo when an attractive Australian woman saw me and exclaimed "you're that guy!" I was very flattered. Kathryn Sloan of Sydney, Australia was on vacation with her husband, Darren. She'd actually commented on my blog before, and is keeping quite an entertaining log of her own trip at Gettin' My Kicks.

She gave Ace a sample of Vegemite and a little clip-on koala (obviously a travelling Australian ambassador). I haven't opened the Vegemite. It's too cool a souvenir to consume just yet.

David Wickline, the photographer behind Images of 66, made this model of the Cadillac Ranch. I understand that for the 2008 festival in Litchfield, IL, he is showing a model of the arrows from the Twin Arrows Trading post in Arizona. I'm looking very forward to seeing that.

Ace wrote his name on a tire.

Some folks prefer a more personal canvas.

While some people cover Route 66, the Mother Road virtually covers Ron Jones.

I'd actually seen a photo of this tattoo at the Rock Cafe in Stroud, OK, a couple years ago.

Pop Hicks was a long-time institution in Clinton. Alas, it burned down a few years ago. For more info on Ron Jones, see this page at Legends of America

Friday night there was an awards banquet. The very elegant Joy Avery (left) is the granddaughter of Cyrus Avery, a man so instrumental in the creation of the mother road as to be called the "Father of Route 66."

Instead of looking for someone I knew, I decided to mix it up a bit and see if I'd meet anyone new and interesting. I did, and it was rewarding. I was seated with Manoj Patel, whose parents, Jagedish and Ramila, bought the Wigwam Motel in Rialto, CA.

They won the Cyrus Avery award at the 2005 Route 66 Festival because of their dramatic restoration of the place. I stayed there in 2005 and would do so again quite happily.

I asked Manoj for a few words about his family's involvement with the Rialto Wigwam Motel and here's what he said: "My parents knew about the motel for years and of how it was mismanaged. We live very close the motel, my parents operate an tiny 7 unit motel, which is more like a home for us now. My Dad met the Wigwam Motel owner at a convention, where he asked him about the sale of the motel. He was thinking of selling so my Dad offered him an amount and the owner accepted. He has now passed on, but his son I believe is handling some of his other businesses. The owner at the time neglected the property and so did family who was leasing the motel at the time.

Route 66 kind of came into the picture later on, we knew that it had some historic value. I grew up in the area and have memories of riding my bicycle down Foothill Blvd. I’d pass the Wigwam Motel on to the Orange Bowl, where I’d play arcades. I always thought of the Wigwam Motel as being something normal, since it was something that I grew up near. I’ve come to learn that it is something that you’ll never see anywhere else, except for in Holbrook, AZ or Cave City, KY. I did some internet searches as the motel was going through it’s renovations to learn about Route 66, the Wigwam Motels and contacted the 2 California 66 groups. That’s how the 66 stuff all started for me

I was hoping Manoj would buy the nearby Glancy Motel in Clinton. It's a beautiful property in need of renovation. In any event, I can't wait to see what the Patel family buys next; we need more motel owners like them.

The Glancy was eventually bought by Jay Patel and Sam Patel. Read about it in Route 66 News. See, I told you that site was useful.

Michael Wallis, author of Route 66: The Mother Road (currently available as Route 66: The Mother Road 75th Anniversary Edition) gave the keynote "State of the Road" speech.

The aforementioned Rod Harsh recorded it and offers it on his website.

Delbert and Ruth Trew (left and center) of McLean, Texas, won the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Trews are personal heroes of mine for their role is saving the recently-downed rattlesnake sign along Texas Route 66. They plan to display it in McLean.

Here it is on March 24 of 2007. (I passed it again in late February of 2008, and it looked much the same)

And here's what it looked like before the storm.

They brought the "R" to raffle off as a fund-raiser. The winner donated the letter back to them; good for them.

Tulsa author Marian Clark won "Person of the Year." She is co-author (with Wallis) of The Route 66 Cookbook: Comfort Food from the Mother Road and Hogs On 66: Best Feed and Hangouts for Roadtrips on Route 66.

Photographer Shellee Graham moves like a 6-volt toy hooked up to a 12-volt car battery. The last time I had this much trouble keeping something in the viewfinder, it had wings and drank nectar from flowers.

Apparently, Shellee Graham can stand still, but it's like watching a sports car idling at a stop light.

I think Ace would have run off with her if I didn't have all his stuff in the trunk of my car.

The history of the late, great Coral Court Motel (a place of architectural beauty and colorful repute) is Graham's specialty. She's the author of Tales From the Coral Court: Photos & Stories from a Lost Route 66 Landmark, photographer of the postcard book "Return to Route 66" and co-creator of the documentary, "Built for Speed: The Coral Court Motel." I believe she was also largely responsible for part of the Coral Court being saved for the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis.

Read more about it on her Coral Court page. I find her collection of quotes about the place to be both sad and amusing.

Graham was running around with Jim Ross who would have seemed pretty hyper all by himself, had Graham not been there for comparison.

Ross is the author of Oklahoma Route 66, a guide I've used and recommend. I remember Ross fondly from a 2002 when my lovely significant other and I were using his guide on a short Oklahoma trek. We literally ran across him in Arcadia when we looked up from reading a description of his house and saw it, with him, in his driveway. He signed my book at that time, and answered a couple questions; it was one of many serendipitous episodes I've experienced on Route 66; the road seems to be a charm for me.

Graham got into shooting Ace with Ross.

We will never speak of this again.

Patty Ambrose (left), Executive Director of the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project was on hand to issue an invitation for people to attend the 2008 National Route 66 Festival, which gets underway today (June 18-22, 2008) in Litchfield, IL.

Here she is with Ace and her husband, Dave. The couple runs a rare enterprise - a family-owned, award winning weekly newspaper in Central Illinois called the South County News.

Litchfield - site of the 2008 festival

"And where exactly is Litchfield, IL?", you might ask. Why use Mapquest when we can consult Bob Waldmire's van for the answer? You can see Litchfield about 1/3 from the left in this photo of the painted Route 66 map on his van.

We were last in Litchfield on July 9 of 2006. The corn lining nearly every road into town gave the effect of driving in a canyon.

Litchfield has a neat old drive-in theatre, the Sky View (or SkyView). That day in 2006, the part of the sign with the name of the business was missing. I believe it has since been restored. The theatre was showing "Cars" then. The features for the coming weekend, coinciding with the 2008 festival, will be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Iron Man.

And they have what I hear is a neat cafe - The Ariston. We didn't have time to eat there in 2006, as we were already late from having eaten like hobbits every day of our last Illinois Route 66 tour. We'll correct that error later toady now that we've arrived in Litchfield for the 2008 festival.

We'll have some photos from the 2008 National Route 66 Festival later this weekend.


OpenID Amelia said...

I <3 Ace Jackalope!
Make bumper stickers please?

Thu Jun 19, 10:57:00 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home