Fall again. Seems faster this year for some reason, mainly because we’er returned “to the streets” and instead of shelter in place and Zoom family get togethers, we’re out and about and getting real hugs. With real hugs comes responsibility and we’ve been exposed to new flu varieties and variations of Covid. If we continue to be careful, follow whatever mask requirements are in place wherever you travel, and as more people get their vaccinations, together we’ll move toward a healthier winter.
I hear from many people the need for a good hard freeze to kill the germs so we’d be healthy all winter and all school year. I’m personally hoping for a real true fall before the cold weather returns.
There is renewed activity all up and down the Mother Road. Festivals are returning in the states out west; here in Illinois the Mother Road Car Show returned to downtown Springfield September 24-26. This year we saw the return of Pontiac’s Thresherman’s Parade on Labor Day weekend, and the Basset Waddle in Dwight on September 19. Atlanta now has their own Tourism person, Whitney Ortiz, and they have had several car shows including the Coffee and Corvettes show. Wilmington hosted an Autumn Craft Show at North Island Park on October 10th. The 6th Annual Route 66 Miles of Possibility Conference will be virtual this year, running October 21 -24.
Wilmington will also be rededicating the Blue Star Memorial Highway Marker on Route 66/Baltimore Street on November 13. It is a multi-Memorial service to celebrate the Blue Star Highway, Veterans Day, and the 95 birthday of Route 66. The event will be from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM and food will be provided by the VFW post.
We had limited Preservation projects this year as we were “technically” on lockdown until June 11 when groups were once more “allowed” to gather and our Motor Tour and Hall of Fame banquet were held. We had a great tour – and it was nice to return to our annual trip on the Mother Road. 2022 Motor Tour will start North and if you know of a place or event we should include in our tour, please email me or your county rep and let them know!
Our annual elections are October 19th and will be held at the Pontiac City Annex at 115 Q Howard next to City Hall. This building is directly across from the Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum at 110 W Howard. The Board meeting is at 10:00 AM and the General meeting/elections will be at 1:00 PM. Come out and volunteer!
The Road Ahead continues to work on economic development and tourism for the entire eight states through with Route 66 runs. I have read in some newspaper and online journals that tourism from Europe is still diminished by travel restrictions. We have had at the museum a huge increase in local Illinois visitors taking the time to do parts of Route 66 and families that are including Day Trips with family get togethers. There are Illinois health mandates still in place and we hope our visitors appreciate our effort to keep everyone healthy and follow the rules.
Over the past 10 years there has been a lot of proposed changes along our Illinois miles. We attended meetings when the Illiana Toll road wanted to cut a wide swath through 100 year of family farms, cemeteries and small communities while paralleling Route 80. There was talk of creating a toll road between Joliet and Wilmington. There were many community meetings regarding the high speed rail and proposed changes along Route 66 to accommodate safer railroad gate and truck access. In the end, the accesses were changed to accommodate safety without taking away the northbound lanes on 66. People would say to me, “They can’t do that!” and the truth is “they” can, unless you participate and say “No!” Many people in state and public works don’t have any idea about or affinity for the Mother Road, so our association is an important voice for the Illinois communities and preservation. Landmarks Illinois is another great organization that brings attention to places in Illinois that need to be saved. These are properties all over the state that need to be saved for future generations. Our award-winning preservation group has accomplished much in this state and will continue to help when asked and of course, we still “Work for food!”
So many changes in our personal contacts in Illinois! Ellie Alexander after a long, amazing career at Pontiac Tourism, recently retired. We were blessed to have the support of Ellie (and her family – thank you, David!). For the last 16+ years, Ellie had a great sense of humor and was amazingly resourceful when we needed her expertise and assistance.
We are excited that Liz Vincent has become the new Tourism Director. Liz has been involved with Pontiac and many will remember seeing her at the various Pontiac plays and musicals at the Park and the Eagle Theatre. Her vibrancy and energy for Pontiac and for Route 66 is awesome.
Sarah Waggoner who had been the Tourism Director in Litchfield has taken a new job in Springfield and we look forward to working with her in her new position as Tourism Manager for Visit Springfield. Sarah will manage the Springfield Visitors Center. Sarah replaces Jeff Berg who had been a valuable Springfield contact for the last 20 years.
Our association is thankful for many things.
Our docents Rose and Mary Ann who greet our visitors and represent Pontiac so well and take care of our museum and our visitors every day.
Marlene (and Russ) of PermaGraphics who go above and beyond to be part of our Route 66 community on their own besides editing and publishing our newsletter.
Gina and Scott of Esembe who are our hired hands with our email newsletters, our PayPal operations, Facebook page and website administration.
I want to thank the entire board of the Route 66 Association of Illinois for their continued hard work and attention to detail whether it’s a day of volunteering at the Hall of Fame and Museum, attending Preservation workdays, or working on the themes and places and faces for the annual Motor Tour. Your continued support and time spent is so well appreciated. We hear from people all the time about how much they enjoy the museum and look forward to seeing us their next time down the road. We have been happy to help those communities that have reached out to us for information or asking for letters of support for their grant applications.
Our best support of our 91 communities is to get out on the road and spend some of your hard-earned dollars supporting the businesses along the road. Your breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon ice cream and/or pie snack, and dinner before you go home helps these authentic 66 roadside service businesses survive! Don’t forget the weekend Picker’s Markets and end of the season car shows and craft fairs! We all notice how gas prices differ out on the road – so fill up before you go home! Every little bit helps.
As we return to our new normal, I look forward to new challenges and new opportunities for our association. So, put your windows down, leave the honey-do list on the kitchen table, and enjoy the colors of fall. Find out whether pumpkin spice is really your thing. (I’m still not sure…).
President, Route 66 Association of Illinois