Sitting in Bob’s bus during the Threshermen’s parade, over 60 people from Portugal and Brazil showed up on motorcycles. The air was thick with smoke and steam from the parading steam engines and the air was full of whistles. Marching bands, sirens, firetrucks, it doesn’t get much better than this on an early fall Sunday. The motorcyclists went wild – they told me they thought the bus was great, the museums fantastic, but they were wowed over the parading steam engines. One of the tour guides remarked that he saw a family that was at least 3 generations sitting on the curb and chairs and laughing together. “Ain’t no Norman Rockwell Painting” I told him, “that’s the real thing.” It was fun to watch the Motorcyclists defer their scheduled takeoff to watch the parade.
Route 66 represents freedom and opportunity all over the world. It is so important that we keep the real 66 available to tourists. To me “66” was about the ability to serve, for some to be an entrepreneur, some it was just a way to create a service business to take care of their families. Since our group formally started in 1989 our Association has been looking out for the road, assisting in Preservation when needed and asked, and taking care of our miles – keeping the bypasses and business 66 areas well marked and driven. We are working toward becoming a National Trail which means we have to acknowledge ALL the good and bad of 66. We are lucky enough to have 3 Association members, Jerry Law, Johnny Miller, and Marty Blitstein who will be representing us on various committees as we work toward this goal. On the national level, we have our “peeps” Bill Thomas (Atlanta, Illinois), Bill Kelly (Springfield, Illinois), and Anne Haacker (Guardian Angel and Springfield, Illinois) working on our behalf. This is not an easy process, but if it ensures that Route 66 will remain as it is and will be under the wing of the federal government when many of us are no longer here to protect her, then that’s what we need to do. My biggest fear has always been the “Branson-ization” of 66. I do not want to see it made into a commercial neon jungle that is generated to create money. Tourism is based on people touring to see the “real” America and eating blue plate specials, drinking soda, visiting old gas stations, museums, and driving the old road. It is interesting to see recent areas that are “acknowledging” their 66 roots yet doing it in such a fashion that its rather blatant that its being done for the money, not the memories. Please continue to support our family owned businesses and service industries along the Mother Road. Where you spend your hard earned money makes a difference.
There will be a Route 66 conference in Bloomington/Normal October 20-23rd. This conference is hosted by the McLean County Museum of History and sponsored by the City of Normal, the City of Bloomington, the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the McLean County Museum of History/Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center, State Farm Bank, and the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway. There is information available and the list of speakers on their website Route66Milesofpossibility.com.
The Sprague Super Service Center at 305 E. Pine in Normal was recently purchased from Terri Ryburn by the City of Normal to become a Route 66 Welcoming Center. Our Preservation Committee had worked on several projects at this location in the past.
The National Parks Grants 2016 have been announced and The Mill, the Del Rhea Chicken Neon Sign, the Sprague Super Service Center, and The Rialto Theatre Marquee in Joliet have received grants. This year Illinois garnered 4 of the 8 grants. This program will sunset in 2019. If there is something in your community that needs to be saved, contact our Preservation Chairman, John Weiss, or go to the National Parks Route 66 corridor website for more information.
The elections are coming up! If you’ve ever thought about volunteering to represent your county, or to be an at large rep, attend our meeting on October 16th in Pontiac. The Board meeting is at 10, and the General Meeting/Elections are at 1:00 p.m. More details at il66assoc.org.
We have wonderful volunteers who work during the Motor Tours and other events giving their time because they enjoy it. Our Preservation Crew does work for food, but that’s nothing compared to them showing up, rags, brushes, and tools in hand to spend the day doing the maintenance that Preservation demands. During the recent work on “Tall Paul” in Atlanta, crews rotated working in shifts to keep safe because of the intense heat.
Fall is here, winter is coming! We need to enjoy the change of colors and events along the road. There’s the Pumpkin Festival in Girard, October 8th, the Mother Road Festival in Springfield September 24th and 25th, and Octoberfests just about everywhere! Make sure you take a few hours and get out before the snow flies to get that last piece of pie at Doc’s in Girard, have Sunday dinner with friends at the Old Route 66 Family Restaurant in Dwight, or just enjoy an amazing autumn sunset as you wind around the old road’s curves and bypasses. Don’t forget to take one of the less traveled alignments once in a while. Old road needs some tire love too.
We have so many amazing people in our Association that never get mentioned or acknowledged. In our Winter issue we will be presenting stories of members whose time, commitment, and help made it possible for us to be the Route 66 community we are today.
See you on the road –