In April, the City of Catoosa finalized the purchase the Blue Whale and the surrounding 23.5 acres. The Whale was built by Hugh Davis in the early 1970s as an anniversary present to his wife, Zelta. The property changed hands a few times over the years, but it has always stayed in the Davis family until now. Rest assured, Catoosa knows how important the Whale is not just to their community but to the entire world.
Since Catoosa has taken ownership of the land, there have been several improvements. The Whale itself has had a good cleaning. The bathrooms have been repaired. Much of the scrub brush has been removed and the walking path on the north side of the pond has been cleared.
Future plans include clearing a path around the south side of the pond and cleaning up the other walking trails through the woodland part of the property. The city plans to continue enhancing the area without negatively impacting the charm and integrity of what our Route 66 family knows and loves.
The gift shop remains open and staffed primarily by Linda Hobbs. All proceeds from the shop will continue to go to the Catoosa Arts & Tourism. Hugh and Zelta’s son, Blaine, has lived on the property off-and-on for the last eighteen years. Although he will no longer live on site, he plans to stay engaged with the Route 66 community.
The Oklahoma Route 66 Association is excited to see what the future brings for ol’ Blue. The legacy of the Whale is a big part of our story and we stand ready to help ensure that this unique roadside attraction continues to welcome visitors for decades to come.
In May, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association received an Oklahoma Humanities HOPE Grant thanks to Oklahoma Humanities and the National Endowment of the Humanities. These monies helped replace the lost funds that we depend on to keep our Executive Director, our single paid staff member, employed and engaged with our individual and business members. Since summer is typically our busy season, it is vital we are in a position to provide travelers with the resources they need to enjoy the Mother Road in Oklahoma.
As you know, we have over 400 miles of Route 66 within our borders. The association helps bridge the gap that comes with those 400 miles to provide promotional opportunities, education resources, and enhancement to state tourism efforts like the #OKHereWeGo effort to encourage local engagement. If we can help someone in Sayre see what’s working in Vinita or share best practices from one of our sister organizations in the other seven Route 66 states, it helps everyone. A rising tide raises all boats!
This grant program would not be possible without the $2.2 trillion relief package that passed federally in late March. The association wants to thank our representatives for their support of these measures along with others to help our communities weather this unprecedented time.
As you feel comfortable venturing out and exploring Oklahoma, we know that Route 66 will be a part of that journey. Our continued engagement will make sure that people are aware of the long-time attractions and the new points of interest along our famous highway.
The Oklahoma Route 66 Association had a great meeting in Elk City on Sunday, January 26th. Many thanks for the National Route 66 Museum for hosting us!
We talked about all of the happenings along Route 66 in the Sooner State and held elections for a few board member positions. Here are the results of that election:
Secretary: VACANT (no candidates)
Treasurer: VACANT (no candidates)
Western Region Vice President: Pam Shelton*
Custer/Washita/Beckham County District Rep: Julie Lenius*
Delaware/Craig/Rogers County District Rep: Linda Hobbs
Ottawa County District Rep: Amanda Davis
At Large Rep: Michael Jones
Pam Shelton and Julie Lenius retained their previous positions on the board. Linda Hobbs had previously been an At Large representative; she stepped forward for the District position when the previous representative, Liz Huckleby, stepped down. We thank Liz and our previous Ottawa County representative, Jordan Boyd, for their service and hope they remain involved in the greater Route 66 community!
We have reached the submission deadline for new Trip Guide advertising; we’ve been tracking a little behind where we’ve been in years past so if you want to advertise in the 2020-2021 guide, please reach out to us immediately! We’d love to put your business in front of travelers for the coming year.
It’s easy to see how the excitement around Route 66 has grown over the last few years. I drove down to Elk City from Tulsa and, as always, took the old road as much as I could. New attractions like the Muffler Man art installation near Calumet bring fresh attention to the road while a place like the Canadian River Pony Bridge keeps bringing people back. If it’s been a while since you’ve turned miles on Historic Route 66, be sure you make some time for it soon. You never know what you’ll encounter!
Road Ahead Promotion Working Group Comprised of State Marketing Professionals
In the fall of
2019, Jennifer Mullins, Oklahoma’s Director of Travel Promotion, became the new
Chairman of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership’s Promotion Working Group. In just 3 months, she has completed the task
of recruiting members from the seven other Route 66 state tourism departments
as new members of Working Group.
tourism professionals will join the current members of the Road Ahead’s
Promotion Working Group, Bill Kelly, former
Executive Director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Program and Brennen
Matthews, Editor of Route magazine. This marks the first time
representatives from tourism departments in all eight Route 66 states have
committed to working together to promote the Mother Road.
“I am deeply
honored to have the opportunity to work collaboratively with my counterparts on
ways to promote and increase visitation, both domestically and internationally,
for Route 66,” Mullins said. “The Mother Road is such an important and
fascinating part of our nation’s history and culture, and such a key piece of
our state’s tourism economy. Thousands
of tourists visit Oklahoma each year to drive the highway. They stop in our
cities and towns, bringing in millions of dollars and helping create jobs in
both urban and rural areas. With state leadership that recognizes the
cultural and tourism significance of the Route, and who is committed to
supporting economic development, historic preservation, and marketing
initiatives, we have begun to see real momentum. My goal is to bring that
energy and collaborative enthusiasm to my role within
the group to collectively effect real change on a national level.”
The first order of business for the newly formed Promotion Working
Group will be setting goals, based on the challenges and needs associated with
promoting Route 66.
The new tourism department members of the Route
66 Road Ahead Promotion Working Group include:
Kemmerling, Director of Tourism, Illinois
Sneed, Marketing Coordinator, Missouri
Mullins, Director of Travel Promotion, Oklahoma
Jobe, Director of Tourism, Kansas
Smyth, Tourism Director, Texas
Ladd, Marketing Director, New Mexico
DeClaire, Senior Director of Marketing, Arizona
Walker, Director of Brand Advertising, California
Established in 2015, with the support of the
National Park Service and the World Monuments’ Fund, The Route 66 Road Ahead
Partnership’s mission is to revitalize and sustain Route 66 as a national and
international icon through partnerships focused on promotion, preservation, research
and education, and economic development.
by Rhys Martin, President of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association
When it was announced this summer that the contents of Afton Station were going to be auctioned off, I was tremendously sad. Afton Station had been a great asset to Route 66, not just in northeast Oklahoma but throughout all 2400+ miles. It wasn’t just the old D-X station and the impressive Packard automobile collection inside that endeared it to everyone, but it was owner Laurel Kane and her loyal volunteers that really set the place apart.
I didn’t know Laurel very long, but we became friends in record time. In fact, it was Laurel that stood on the stage at Tulsa’s Cain’s Ballroom in 2015 and served as the officiant in my wedding. Her unexpected passing in early 2016 was a real heartbreak, both for me personally and for the Mother Road at large. I feared that Afton Station was not long for this world without her passion in residence. The shop and museum remained open for a time, but when David Kane also passed suddenly in late 2018 that was the end of the road.
On June 29th 2019, the day of the auction, I took the day off work and drove up to Afton. I hoped to secure some artifacts for the Oklahoma Route 66 Association and perhaps a small something for myself. Alas, my pockets were not deep enough to compete with the likes of Barrett-Jackson auctions out of Arizona and a few of the other attendees. I left that day disappointed on many fronts.
Imagine my surprise when I received a message in late August telling me that the item I most wanted to secure for Oklahoma Route 66 was once again available: the Bob Waldmire U-Haul Truck.
Bob Waldmire was an artist and who I consider to be the prototypical Roadie. He spent a lot of time wandering the country (especially Route 66) creating artwork and speaking out in support of preservation. He turned the vacant Hackberry General Store into a Route 66 destination in the 1990s and was the inspiration behind the Volkswagen Microbus character ‘Fillmore’ in Disney/Pixar’s Cars.
In 2007, Bob painted a giant mural on one side of an old U-Haul truck for Ken and Marian Clark of Tulsa. According to Ken, Bob originally used the truck to move some items from Illinois (where his family runs the Cozy Dog Drive-In) to his off-the-grid home in Portal, New Mexico. Although Bob had originally intended to sell it, he passed before that became a reality. The Clarks donated to the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, but they didn’t have room for it. In 2012, it was given to Afton Station, where it was displayed until this summer.
The Oklahoma Route 66 Association is so proud to announce that this artifact has been secured in Chelsea, Oklahoma: Project Chelsea has stationed it near the restored Pedestrian Underpass. Travelers and roadies can continue to experience this beautiful work by one of Route 66’s most enduring artists.
Many thanks to Sylvie Kane, Samantha Extance, and Route 66 Germany for their donations that made this possible. Thanks also to Pam Stanbro and Project Chelsea for coming together and taking stewardship of this treasure. Through continued donations and support, we hope to restore the truck to working order and potentially restore the faded parts of Bob’s artwork. One step at a time…
The next time you’re in Chelsea, stop by and take a selfie with this one-of-a-kind Route 66 Artifact and tag #ok66!
The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership announced today that they are partnering with Harvest Hosts to build a network of varied destinations that invite self-contained RVers to visit and stay overnight. This network will provide unique lodging options for Route 66 travelers that bring a bit of home with them on the open road. Below is the full press release with more information.
Learn About this New Way for RVs to Travel Route 66
The Road Ahead and Harvest Hosts have partnered to provide RVs traveling Route 66 a new way to experience all the Mother Road has to offer. Harvest Hosts [www.harvesthosts.com] is a membership network that invites self-contained RVers to stay overnight for free at selected sites, attractions, and businesses across the United States. In conjunction with the Road Ahead, this unique experience will now be offered along Route 66. The goal of the new partnership is to expand the current listing of Harvest Hosts locations to include some of the unique sites along Route 66.
Harvest Hosts is a membership program that currently provides access to a network of wineries, farms, breweries, golf courses, museums, and other attractions that invite self-contained RVers to visit and stay overnight. For a small annual fee, Harvest Hosts members can visit and stay at any of its 700+ locations completely free. In return they are asked to support the local businesses they visit. The goal is to connect RVers with the hidden gems of Real America, where they find unique experiences and make lasting memories with family and friends.
Harvest Hosts has tens of thousands of members from the United States, Canada and around the world, including retirees, full-time families, business professionals, bloggers, and adventurers all of whom have one thing in common: the desire to experience unique locations as they travel. In an effort to support local businesses and make it beneficial for those who act as Hosts, members are encouraged to support the businesses they visit, whether that’s through buying some wine, shopping in the gift shop, making a donation to a museum, or buying some local produce.
The Road Ahead invites attractions, sites, and businesses along Route 66 to contact it if interested in becoming a Harvest Host site. Just email email@example.com for information and details.
Established in 2015 with the support of the National Park Service and the World Monuments Fund, The Route Road Ahead Partnership’s mission is to revitalize and sustain Route 66 as a national and international icon through partnerships focused on promotion, preservation, research and education, and economic development.
Here is a full report on the 2019 Road Ahead Partnership Annual Board Meeting:
The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership held its third Annual Board of
Directors Meeting February 22-23, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Highlights
of the meeting included an update on efforts to designate Route 66 a National
Historic Trail, the 2019 budget, a new partnership policy, reports from working
groups and task forces, and the election of the 2019 Board Officers.
John Conoboy, Chairman of the Road Ahead’s National Historic Trail
Task Force, and Amy Webb, representative from the National Trust for Historic
Preservation reported that much progress was made in 2018 and hopes were high
that HR801, the Federal legislation to designate Route 66 a National Historic
Trail, would be passed last year. The government shutdown in mid-December,
however, resulted in the legislation not moving forward. The bill has been
reintroduced in the new Congress, with a goal of having it passed by Congress
and signed by the President before the end of 2019.
The Board approved a budget for the 2019 fiscal year. In addition to
approving basic administrative costs, the Board discussed and approved funding
for several expenses related to achieving specific strategic goals established by
the Road Ahead including:
Development Working Group – $5,000 was approved to develop
case studies illustrating successful efforts by communities across Route 66 to
leverage Route 66 for economic development purposes. Funding of up to $10,000
was also approved to conduct additional research in conjunction with work done
by Rutgers University to update its 2012 Route 66 Economic Impact Study.
66 State Associations Advocacy Working Group – $6,000 was allocated
to improve the Road Ahead’s ability to inform and educate Route 66 stakeholders
and Roadies regarding what the organization is and what it is doing. Communication
efforts will focus on the dissemination of press releases, Facebook posts, email
blasts, news articles, etc. through communication channels used by state-based
Route 66 Associations, including their newsletters, magazines, websites,
Facebook pages, etc.
Book Task Force [GBTF] – $1,000 was allocated to cover
potential research and/or travel costs for the GBTF as it initiates its work to
address needs/challenges associated with Route 66-based Green Book sites.
Working Group – The Board approved up to $2,000 to cover potential travel costs for
its newly appointed Historic Resources Specialist [HRS] Anne Haaker, retired
deputy State Historic Preservation Officer from Illinois. Her
focus will be the development, coordination, and implementation of the Road
Ahead’s review of federal, state and local construction projects that may
affect Route 66 historic resources, in accordance with Section 106 of the
National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
Working Group – $9,900 was approved by the Board to address one of the most
frequently reported challenges faced by Route 66 travelers, i.e. navigating the
Route. This funding is being used to design and develop a Route 66 navigation
app in conjunction with the Arts Technology Program at Illinois State
Motel Task Force [VMTF] – Up to $5,000 was allocated to
underwrite the work of the VMTF, including costs associated with providing
benefits to owner/operators who sign up to become members of “The Route 66
Motel Collection” being created by the VMTF.
Advisory Group –$1,000 in funding was approved to support implementation of an
online survey designed to identify challenges, needs, and wants of
international visitors traveling Route 66. The survey was piloted last summer
at the European Route 66 Festival.
Committee – The Board approved setting aside $14,500 into a reserve fund. The reserve
will be called upon as needed, pending the organization’s ability to raise
additional public and/or corporate sponsorship funding.
The Board adopted Policy 2019-01 that deals with establishing
partnerships between the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership and other
not-for-profit organizations. Looking ahead, the Board will also draft a policy
for establishing potential partnerships with for-profit entities. Chairman Bill
Thomas will work with Board member Dr. David Dunaway, to draft the proposed
Throughout the meeting, the Chairs of the Road Ahead’s several Working
Groups, Task Forces, and Advisory Groups, presented updates to the Board. Those
reports are presented in the minutes of the Annual Board Meeting and – once
posted – can be read online in the Resources section of the Road Ahead’s
Research 66 representatives
Felchlin, Sean Evans,
and Audra Bellmore presented options to formalize a working relationship between
the Road Ahead and Research 66. The Road Ahead Board endorsed the idea and
directed Chairman Thomas to draft a Memorandum of Understanding to bring to the
Board for discussion/action. Research 66 is a group of 10 archival institutions along
Route 66, that focus on making research materials accessible to the general
public and Route 66 stakeholders for the purpose of education, preservation,
and management of the historic Route 66 corridor.
The Board also passed two resolutions of appreciation and welcomed
three new members. Dora Meroney, who had served as the representative from
Texas, and Brad Nickson, representative from Oklahoma, were recognized for
their service as they ended their time on the Board. Each had served on the
Board since the founding of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership in 2015. Sharon
Foster, representative from California, Gary Dagget, representative from Texas,
and Rhys Martin, representative from Oklahoma, were introduced and welcomed as
new Board members.
Board members enjoyed the opportunity to become better acquainted during
their time in Albuquerque, as they dined together and participated in a field
trip of vintage motels and neon along Central Avenue [Route 66]. The field trip
was led by Ed Boles, an historic preservation architect, who is also a member
of the Road Ahead’s Vintage Motel Task Force.
Officers of the Board for 2019 were elected: Bill Thomas, Chairman
[Illinois], David Bricker, Vice Chairman [California], Renee Charles, Secretary
[Kansas], and Bill Kelly, Treasurer [Illinois]. Officer terms are for one year.
When completed, minutes of the 2019 Annual Board Meeting, a copy of
the Treasurer’s Report, and the approved 2019 Budget will be posted on the Route
66 Road Ahead Partnership’s website, accessible at: www.route66roadahead.com.
Members of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership Board of Directors in
attendance at the Annual Meeting included:
David Bricker – Chair of the Preservation Working Group
Melissa Beasley – New Mexico Route 66 Association
Renee Charles – Kansas Historic Route 66 Association/ Route 66
Association of Kansas
Gary Dagget – Texas Old Route 66 Association
Sharlene Fouser – Arizona Route. 66 Scenic Byway Program
Bill Kelly – Chair of the Promotion Working Group
Ruth Keenoy [sitting in for Tommy Pike] – Route 66 Association of
Steve Mandrgoc – Interim Chair of the Research & Education Working
Rhys Martin – Oklahoma Route 66 Association
Bill Thomas – Chairman of Board, Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership
Also attending and/or presenting at the Annual Board of Directors Meeting
John Conoboy – Chairman of the National Historic Trails Task Force
Aaron Mahr – National Park Service
John Cannella – National Park Service
Kaisa Barthuli – National Park Service
Amy Grant – National Trust for Historic Places
Debbie Pogue – Vintage Motel Task Force
Board Members/Advisory Group Representatives not able to attend the
Annual Meeting include:
John Miller – Illinois Route 66 Association
Jeff Fulgenzi – Chairman
Economic Development Working Group
David Dunaway – Chairman Research & Education Work
Emerson R. Vallo – Chairman Tribal Advisory Group
At the conclusion of the Annual Board of Directors Meeting, members of
the Board hosted the Second Annual Route 66 Stakeholders Reception and Update
Event, to which any and all members of the public interested in Route 66 were
invited. Approximately 25 stakeholders attended and engaged Road Ahead Board
members in a discussion of their interests and questions. The Board of
Directors looks forward to holding the Third Annual Stakeholders Reception and Update
meeting following its 2020 Annual Board of Directors Meeting. The location of
that meeting will be determined and announced at a later date.
Established in 2015, with the support of the National
Park Service and the World Monuments’ Fund, The Route 66 Road Ahead
Partnership’s mission is to revitalize and sustain Route 66 as a national and
international icon through partnerships focused on promotion, preservation,
research and education, and economic development.
For more information about the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership, contact:
Bill Thomas, Chairman Rt. 66 Road Ahead Partnership firstname.lastname@example.org 217-648-5077
On February 20th, I left the Sooner State and headed west to Albuquerque for the annual Board of Directors Meeting for the Route 66: Road Ahead Partnership. If you’re unfamiliar with this national group, here is a summary:
The Road Ahead Partnership is a collaboration of representatives from state-level Route 66 Associations, state Directors of Tourism from across the route, representatives from state and private historic preservation agencies/organizations, as well as individual business and attraction owners across Route 66. The organization has also established an International Route 66 Advisory Group and a Tribal Advisory Group.
Our group gathered at the El Vado Motel, a beautifully restored motel in Albuquerque. The site was brought back from the brink of collapse and turned into a remarkable complex consisting of lodging, food & drink options, and an event center. It’s a terrific blend of 20th Century style and 21st Century amenities. As such, it was perfect for our needs.
Led by chairman William Thomas (Atlanta, IL), our team discussed all manner of projects relating to the preservation and promotion of the Mother Road. All eight state associations were engaged in these discussions, as was the National Park Service and a few other interested parties. A full accounting of the meeting will be made available soon, but for now I wanted to share a few highlights:
National Route 66 Legislation
Although legislation to designate Route 66 as a National Historic Trail did not pass in 2018, the wheels are already turning to get this re-introduced in Congress this year. Optimism is high that we will have this in place in time for the sunset of the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.
A bill advancing the creation of a national Route 66 Centennial Commission has already been created and passed by the House of Representatives (HR-66). All eight states were urged to speak with their individual state governments to create state-wide commissions in preparation. Illinois and Missouri have already accomplished this.
Mobile App Progress
A mobile travel app for smartphones is nearly complete. This should enter beta testing this summer. The goal is to provide a complimentary service for travelers to help them navigate Route 66 on-the-go. In addition to turn-by-turn directions, the Partnership is working on including itineraries specific to Native American culture along the Route 66 Corridor as well as a narrative tied to the Green Book.
Vintage Motel Task Force
A report from Debbie Pogue of the Sunset Motel in Moriarty, NM on the creation of a network of vintage Route 66 Motels along Route 66 to help enhance the experience for roadies and non-66 travelers alike. More to come on this but it’s really exciting!
While we were in Albuquerque, we were also treated to a bus tour of vintage motel properties courtesy of Ed Boles (Historic Preservation Architect) and Kaisa Barthuli (National Park Service). Ed pointed out multiple historic properties along Central Ave along with their current status – like many other cities, Albuquerque has lost a lot of architectural treasures over the last few decades. However, other properties have been given new life. We stopped at the Sundowner and visited with its owner about the work done to repurpose this vintage motel into a mixed-income housing development.
All in all, it was a very productive two days in the Land of Enchantment. Look for more details when the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership sends out a news released about the meeting, which will be posted at their website here.