This was an incredibly fast year… at least for me. A new job, another year of Illinois Route 66 and its maintenance and magic, and now for 2017. Snow, cold, and even though we all knew this is the season for it, its always a shock to my system.
So thankful for the members of this Association who have helped make the Route 66 Association of Illinois strong for another year. We have faithful volunteers in our Preservation Committee who help keep our Illinois miles looking good. We have new projects on the calendar for Spring – signage and a unique billboard for the no-longer there Riviera Restaurant. For years Bob and Peg Kraft welcomed travelers and Association members to their totally unique and irreplaceable restaurant in Gardner. Whenever I drive past that curve in the road my eyes go to the driveway and I think of dinners and meetings that were held there and the friends whose company I once enjoyed. I have been kidded about that piece of wooded property being “sacred” ground. Gone but not forgotten – the late Peg Kraft would name her dishes with very inventive names. One time she had a “Ground Hog” special. I asked Peg politely “Ground Hog?” – she laughed and said it was ground pork, she just wanted it to have a snazzy name!
The pathway to become a National Trail is underway. John Miller, Marty Blitstein, and Jerry Law are representing us on various committees to look out for the future of the real, authentic Route 66. The Associations will still be here, its just that we need to look to the future for protection for the Mother Road. If we work together and make sure the National Trail is put together correctly, when our days are done, Route 66 will be protected properly. A great deal of conversation and thought has been processed about inviting the government into caretaking of these precious miles and we are fortunate that the people representing Illinois all share the same concerns and issues.
The 2017 Motor Tour committee has been organized and planning is underway. Our theme is “Road Trip.” We’re going to visit places “off” road – because there are many unique and interesting places “just a little” off the beaten path. We look forward to introducing you to and places and people you may not have known about!
Our overnight will be in Lincoln, and we will end the tour in Litchfield. It’s always the second full weekend in June – so make sure you put June 9th, 10th, and 11th on your calendar now!
Over the next few issues we are going to highlight some of the past members who were active in our Association and on the Mother Road in Illinois. This is being done in a random fashion – because we have had so many people who worked hard to make our Association “work” and to build the strong basis for the Illinois Association today. Politics is always present when you have two or more people involved, but the concern for Route 66 in Illinois has always been the mainstay of our group. Protection of her miles, respect for the life she brought into, around, and out-of towns, and the fact that Route 66 represents to the world a freedom to adapt and grow and build a life and community out of nothing.
One of the greatest benefits of being the president of this Association is that people share with me their stories of how they went out and found the road on their own. How people just wandered, got off the regular road and followed the old road. How they stopped and talked to the “old folk” and recorded their stories of 66’s heyday. It is my hope and wish that 66 never stops having a “heyday” that each generation will develop their own stories and history along the road. The road is a living entity – and even those who start off exclaiming that 66 “road huggers” are nuts often become the most adamant 66 supporters.
So bundle up and stay warm. Do all those “honey do” lists during the winter so that come spring, you are free to wander down the two lane. As you clean out your attics or crawl spaces, remember the stories that go with your “stuff.” Remember the good, acknowledge and let go of the bad. Yes, there is always some place you can donate that 1940s toy or record or Dad’s old army uniform. Just ask.
The Missouri Neon Preservation Committee and the Route 66 Association of Illinois applied for and received funds to help Pat Rhea preserve the original Chicken Basket neon sign from outside the restaurant in Willowbrook. We’ll be having a relighting ceremony. Another 72 year old sign saved by the joint cooperation of Missouri and Illinois. This is our third project together.
Come spring, remember the first full weekend in May is the Red Carpet Corridor. Ninety miles of fun and adventure between Joliet and Towanda. The Motor Tour in June. Festivals and fireworks in July. Cookoffs and Blues Fests and Carnivals in August. The International Mother Road Fest in Springfield in September.
There is always time for dinner at the Ariston in Litchfield, to see the neon at the Luna in Mitchell and 24 hour breakfast “and” at the Steak-N-Egger in McCook.
A safe, happy and healthy holiday season to you and yours from the Route 66 Association of Illinois and its Board of Directors. Thank you for your continued support. We are proud to represent you.
See you on the road –
Cathie Stevanovich, President