Last month I shared a glimpse of the future that is built on what was started in
2014. In that post I noted that Kingman, and what was then a nondescript building at the heart of the historic business district, a former J.C. Penny’s (now Beale Celebrations) seemed an unlikely place for a convention with participants traveling from throughout the United States and Europe to attend. Even more surprising is the fact that this historic convention, the International Route 66 Festival, continues to influence and affect the Route 66 community.
At this event a partnership between the city and the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation epitomized the events theme, Kingman: Crossroads of the Past & Future, and led to establishment of the world’s first electric vehicle museum. Now there are discussions about the hosting of annual electric vehicle conference with seminars, workshops, and electric vehicles.
The televised conferences at the 2014 festival that included representatives of European Route 66 associations, people spearheading development of Route 66 as an electric highway and as a bicycle corridor, as well as Kaisa Barthuli of the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program has morphed in the annual Miles of Possibility Conference, a Route 66 convention. Fast forward to 2018. After the Miles of Possibility Conference at Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois in October a proposal was made for an east and west conference in 2020. Could Kingman again be hosting an historic event? The answer is YES!
From the 2014 event the bi-annual European Route 66 Festivals were launched. Also, the first European Route 66 Tour, the installation of electric vehicle charging stations along Route 66, and bricks on 66 programs as funding mechanisms for community revitalization in several towns stemmed from this festival in Kingman. The Beale Celebrations building housed an unprecedented display of Route 66 authors an artists. All of these components are now being rolled into an exciting initiative that is focused on 2026, the centennial year for Route 66.
With Kingman as the center, Route 66 centennial programs and projects for the highway corridor in the southwest are being planned and developed. Even though the centennial of the storied highway is just over seven years in the future, many communities and the State of Illinois have launched planning committees. A centennial bill is also working its way through the Congress. The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership, the organization that is leading the initiative to have Route 66 designated a National Historic Trail is also preparing centennial projects.
In Kingman, a grassroots initiative is developing a planning committee of its own that includes an educational component that will provide communities with the tools needed to link preservation with economic development, create tourism initiatives based on the countdown to the centennial, and use the international interest in Route 66 as means of highlighting a towns unique attributes to travelers. The ambitious endeavor is being spearheaded by Jim Hinckley, author of The Route 66 Encyclopedia, Ghost Towns of Route 66, and Travel Route 66.
Of course any event or festival such as the centennial celebration or a western version of the Miles of Possibility Conference would center on the renovated Beale Celebrations event center. With its central location in the historic business district, the event center is ideally suited for presentations, a display of authors and artists, or workshops.
These events might be the ghost of Christmas future. Meanwhile the event center will grow in popularity as people discover its is the perfect venue for conferences, weddings, or conventions.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America