Illinois Route 66 Association Overview
It Began in Illinois
Route 66 is probably the most well known road in this country, if not the world. Created in 1926, along with the rest of the federal highway system, it existed until 1985 when it was formally decommissioned and replaced by interstate highways. In the time between, it earned a home for itself in the hearts and memories of people across the country. And that place can never be taken by an interstate highway. The road passed through eight states: Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Illinois was the first state to have its section completely hard surfaced. And it was the first state to replace the old road with the interstate.
Formation of Associations
With the removal of federal Route 66 highway signs and the lack of any designation on maps, many Americans thought the road no longer existed. In government terms, this was true. But while parts of the old road had disappeared under the interstate’s path, most of its 2,448 miles of pavement still existed and could be driven – if one knew where to look! By 1984, when Interstate 40 bypassed the last stretch of Route 66 in Arizona, a movement was already developing to resurrect the old road, put up new road signs, and restore it to the maps and atlases of the world. It might not be the great commercial artery that it once was, but it could still be a road – a road that people could use to enjoy a slower and more relaxed way of travel. The first state Route 66 association was formed in February 1987. On March 5, 1989, 15 people met in Pontiac. From there a core group of Illinois Route 66 fans began meeting to form an association in Illinois. That association was formally established in October 1989 in Dwight, Illinois. At that Founding meeting, the association elected officers and adopted bylaws to govern its operations.
Purpose of the Association
As stated in its by-laws, the purpose of the Route 66 Association of Illinois is to “preserve, educate, promote and enjoy the past and present of U.S. Highway 66. Our focus shall be on that portion of Route 66 which lies within the borders of the state of Illinois, although we will also take part in cooperative efforts which promote the highway’s interests on a national level. Our primary activities shall be to promote tours, fairs and other public events along Route 66 or relating to it. We publish a newsletter, written map, and a series of brochures of What to See & Do, Where to Eat & Sleep, as well as other informational materials. We also cooperate and counsel with government in efforts to preserve and promote the high- way.”
The association is governed by its officers (president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer and corresponding secretary) and its board of directors. The board consists of one member from each of the twelve Illinois counties through which Route 66 passed, as well as five at-large members. All officers and board members are elected to rotating two-year terms.
The association meets four times a year in January, April, July and October and has a picnic every September. There are also several planning sessions for the annual motor tour. Other meetings are scheduled as needed. All meetings are open to all members and they are encouraged to attend and take part.
Each year, the association sponsors a weekend motor tour the second weekend in June from Chicago to St. Louis in odd years and St. Louis to Chicago in even years on Route 66. The tour stops for music, meal, fun and fellowship in as many as eight cities along the way. We publish a quarterly newsletter that keeps readers up to date on Route 66 activities in Illinois and the rest of the country. And association members attend fairs and other public festivals along the route to promote the highway and raise funds through the sale of Route 66 memorabilia. These funds are then used to support the association’s Route 66 Hall of Fame, brochures, mailing out information around the world to inquires about Route 66 here in Illinois, and other promotional activities. In June 1991 the association won the Governor’s Home Town Award for economic development.
The Route 66 Hall of Fame
The “NEW” Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame Museum is located in Pontiac, IL. Established in 2004, it commemorates the people, places and events that gave Route 66 its special character. It features include plaques and displays honoring members of the Hall of Fame, as well as many other exhibits of historic and unusual interest. The Hall of Fame Museum is open year around. Admission is free. Induction ceremonies for new members are held each year during the Association’s annual Motor Tour. The original Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame Museum, established in 1990, was located at the Dixie Truckers Home in McLean, Il.
Historic Route 66
One of our primary aims is to convince federal and state governments that Route 66 should receive special designation as a historic or scenic highway. In the Spring of 1995 IDOT put up historic signs along Route 66 in Illinois, complete with arrows. We hope this will lead to the establishment of visitors centers, museums, roadside parks and other sites dedicated to the memory and enjoyment of Route 66. There is a Route 66 association in each state along the way now working toward these goals. These associations work independently on state projects, but they work collectively on national efforts. The more members we have who will work for these goals, the better our chances are of achieving them.
A preservation committee has been formed to work on preserving what is left. We plan on taking an inventory of the highway and talk to the people of Route 66 to make an oral and written history. We will work with interested parties for placements to the National Register of Historic Places. In the Fall of 1997 we had our first listing in Odell, the old Standard Oil Gas Station. We will also work on projects we feel that will be worth while and in the best interest of 66. The committee meets periodically.
Association By Laws
View our Association Bylaws (approved July 19, 2015)