Baby, it’s cold outside! It’s dark early and cold and everything is gray and I can’t believe this year just flew by! So much to be thankful and grateful for, so many people helping out and giving their time and energy to our Association and to the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum.
There is construction everywhere – it’s long been Illinois fifth season – you know, Summer, Winter, Spring, Fall and Construction. Everywhere there are road crews fixing, changing or repairing. Sos much commotion and change that we’re incorporating it into our 2020 Motor Tour. Our 30th annual Motor Tour: “Life is a Highway.”
We are traveling south to north, the tour will include a double cross of the Chain of Rocks Bridge and then we’ll be traveling far and wide as we head north. Our overnight will be in Lincoln with Chef Wendtland providing amazing food and we’ve pre-booked the American Legion Hall again as it was such a perfect venue last year. Mark your calendars now – the second full weekend of June, the 12th, 13th and 14th.
It wasn’t that long ago that many of us gathered in the old fire station in Pontiac in December, 2003 and held a simple ceremony to start the Route 66 Hall off Fame and Museum. We huddled together on that snowy day to christen our future home. We opened to the public officially in June, 2004 and 15 years later we’re going strong. The Road itself has provided us with additions to our displays and we are proud to provide a wonderful museum where everyone is welcome to come and see the past, present and future of Route 66. The tourism season is slowing down for a little while although we’ve had many Illinois families visit the museum, incorporating the visit with a family reunion, sports tournament or staycation. We are now open winter hours (10:00 A.M to 4:00 P.M.
Many businesses along the road are closing – and new ones opening. We have seen over the last 10 years more Route 66 communities utilizing their Route 66roots to add to their local history. We will be seeing a big change in some of the smaller communities. Pontiac will be the home to a huge car-only gas station with over 70 gas pumps, and Atlanta is working on developing a major truck stop off I-55. Elwood continues to be the home of the world’s largest inland port which means endless truck traffic. Joliet recently annexed more land where more warehouses will be built. Although they are building a diamond-style exit off I-80 with a major new truck stop before the exit to Chicago Road (IL53/Hwy 66), the truck traffic is still pretty intimidating to many Roadies as they start their adventures coming out of Joliet. It wasn’t that long ago when talk/meetings concerning the Illiana toll road were being held and discussions about how aa new toll road would benefit/impact all the communities in its path. I attended many meetings regarding the effects on towns, cemeteries, ancient burial grounds, current businesses, family farms, all that lay in the path of this progressive road. It’s just a story in the past now, and communities are looking for new ways to maintain their character yet expand their financial base.
As 2019 winds to a close, I want to thank all those who gave their time, energy, membership or support that enabled our Association to finish the year strong. Our award-winning Preservation Committee continues to provide advice and help where we can throughout the state. It’s one of the few crews where laughter and getting your hands dirty is a big part of why our preservation projects are so successful. We know the trick is maintenance, maintenance, maintenance, but we have such a great time doing it. We work for food and it doesn’t get better than saving a piece of history for tomorrow and somewhere there’s fabulous sandwiches or chicken dinners and homemade desserts of lots of conversation.
We look forward to spring – the preservation work days, the Red Carpet Corridor (first weekend in May) and then on to the 300+ car shows and festivals up and down the road. For now we’ll have to hunker down and conserve our energy for cold winter mornings and snowy nights. Time for the family traditions and New Year resolutions. Time to be grateful for all those that were an important part of our lives and the stories of the Mother Road, and time to enjoy and share the stories of those we still can. A big thank you to Mayor Bob Russell for all his Route 66 hands-on “mayoring” in Pontiac and we wish him well in his retirement. Another thank you to Bill Kelly from the Route 66 Scenic Byway who recently retired. Bill will remain active on our Road Ahead initiative so we are happy he’s not completely leaving his 66 roots as he moves out east to start his retirement.
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Route 66 Association of Illinois, I extend to you our warmest and sincerest wishes for a safe, happy, healthy holiday season. If you get a little cabin fever, get out and support the small businesses along the road.
Looking forward to an interesting 2020 with you!
Cathie Stevanovich, President
Route 66 Association of Illinois