Road Ahead Launches ‘Extraordinary Women’ Micro-Grant Program

From the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership

The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership is proud to announce the Route 66 Extraordinary Women (EW) Micro-Grant Program. The program is funded by the Route 66 Extraordinary Women Initiative, which was launched in December 2020 as a way for women to help other women along Route 66.

Businesses are struggling in these Covid-challenged times. To respond, the EW Micro-Grant Program will award funds from a pool of $10,000 raised via the EW Initiative. Grant requests are being accepted for amounts up to $2,500.

Business and attractions located directly on an alignment of Route 66, that are owned or operated by women may apply for EW Micro-Grants. Both non-profit and for-profit organizations are eligible. Mobile operations that serve the Mother Road, such as tour operators, food trucks, and suppliers with Route 66 as their sales territory are also eligible.

Grant applications must be received by midnight (central time), April 30, 2021. Awards will be announced by May 14, 2021 and grants distributed no later than May 28, 2021. Interested parties can download the grant application, guidelines, and other resource materials at http://route66roadahead.com/resources/.

This round of EW Micro-Grant projects will be reviewed based on their economic impacts. Projects that help keep in operation businesses or attractions owned/operated by women, or help them reopen, as well as projects that support the opening of new women-owned or operated businesses/attractions will be considered. Other considerations include projects that provide matching funds, how well the project reflects the spirit of Route 66, a project’s impact on its community, and listing on, or qualification for, the National Register of Historic Places.

The Route 66 Extraordinary Women Initiative and Micro-Grant Program are part of the Road Ahead’s five-year “Party with a Purpose” to celebrate the Route 66 Centennial in 2026. Focusing on preservation, promotion, research/education, and economic development projects, the Road Ahead hopes to celebrate the Centennial by helping the 5+ million people who live and work along Route 66.

More information on the Route 66 extraordinary Women Initiative can found online at
https://100extraordinarywomen.com/route-66-extraordinary-women-initiative.

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/education, and economic development.

FINDING YOUR KICKS ON ROUTE 66; NEW SIGNS WILL POINT THE WAY TO MOTHER ROAD IN OKLAHOMA

USE THIS LOGO

Mid-March marks 75 years since Nat King Cole recorded what would become the definitive song for people to “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66.” These days, travelers and Route 66 enthusiasts who “plan to motor west” will have an easier way to spot the Mother Road in Oklahoma. Revised historical route markers are going up over the next few months along key areas as one of the first visual cues that the state is getting ready for the upcoming Route 66 centennial celebrations in 2026.

The new design is the result of input from Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who is also the state’s Secretary of Tourism & Branding, the Oklahoma Route 66 Centennial Commission, the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, the Route 66 Alliance and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

“Travelling on Route 66 and seeing the incredible history of this highway in person is a destination trip for people worldwide, and we are so incredibly fortunate to have this gem right here in our state,” Pinnell said. “These signs will help drivers easily identify areas of the Mother Road and bring new awareness to this transportation treasure in Oklahoma.”

Sign graphic courtesy of ODOT

The signs have a brown background which is used nationally to designate areas of cultural significance. The words “historic” and “route” will be in white letters, which is a change from the current design that uses black lettering. A historic font pays homage to the early version of the signs and the recognizable US-66 shield is featured.

“Oklahoma has more drivable miles of Route 66 than any other state, making it an easily accessible historic destination which will showcase the signs all around our state,” Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said. “These signs are a low-cost project that will have a major impact for everyone wanting to see what makes Route 66 so special.”

Photo by Rhys Martin

The original path of Route 66 traverses present-day highways, interstates and also local roads across the state. ODOT will continue to work with local communities who have an interest in placing signs along sections of the route along their city streets. Sign templates are already being made available to those cities wishing to partner in this centennial effort so they can create matching signs, and ongoing conversations will continue to help address route gaps and also how the sign initiative can help highlight the unique aspects of the route on local roads.

For the highway and interstate system statewide, ODOT has produced nearly 400 of the updated historical route markers in-house at a cost of about $50 per sign for an estimated up to $20,000 total. Over time, these will be either replace older markers or also placed at additional locations to help point the way to local segments of the route.

May be an image of road and text that says 'EXIT 302 Afton Fairland Grove PRESENT RECEIPT FOR REFUND EAST NORTH NORTH 6015969 69 SOUTH WEST SOUTH 5960/69 口ロ团 OKLAHOMA 68 ROUTE'
Photos by Rhys Martin

Adjustments will continue to be made in this initial phase of signing the highway system. As the route also doubled in some areas between adjacent interstates and highways, the marker locations will be refined to point the way to secondary routes so that travelers can see what makes historic Route 66 in Oklahoma City… and the entire state of Oklahoma… “so pretty.”

For more information on historic Route 66, visit the Oklahoma Route 66 Association website at oklahomaroute66.com and also the Route 66 Alliance Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/route66alliance/  for more information on Route 66 and the upcoming Centennial.

Key facts about historic Route 66:

Originally designated as U.S. Highway 66, the road stretched from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, ending in Santa Monica.

Route 66 was one of several national highways established in 1926 and originally covered a total of nearly 2,500 miles.

Cyrus Avery, then-chairman of the State Highway Commission in Oklahoma, was known as the “Father of Route 66,” having helped create the first U.S. highway system.

Known as “America’s Main Street” or “The Mother Road,” the route ran through Oklahoma and served as the state’s first major east-west highway.

Oklahoma has more drivable miles of Route 66 than other states; 400 miles of the Mother Road stretch from Quapaw in northeast Oklahoma to Texola in western Oklahoma, with many historic and roadside attractions remaining along the route.

The official Route 66 designation was nationally removed from the highway system in 1985.
Historic Route 66 is designated as a Scenic Byway and also gained designation as an All-American Road in 2008 from the Federal Highway Administration.

Route 66 Centennial Legislation Clears the U.S. Congress

From the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership

Washington, DC – In a suspension of its regular rules, the US House of Representatives has approved the Senate version of the Route 66 Centennial Commission Act (S1014). The legislation now heads to the White House for the President’s signature.

The Route 66 Centennial Commission Act began its journey in 2017, when Congressman Rodney Davis (D-IL) introduced HR66 at the urging of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership. That bill passed unanimously under suspension rules on July 16, 2018.

In April 2019, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced the bill in the US Senate (S1014) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of historic Route 66. Following some language changes, the Act passed out of the Senate on August 10, 2020, and returned to the House to reconcile any language differences
between the two bodies.

Once signed into law, 15 Commissioners will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Secretary of Transportation, Senate and House majority leaders, and governors of the eight Route 66 states. Appointees will have demonstrated both a dedication to educating others about the importance of historical figures and events, and a substantial knowledge and appreciation of Route 66.

The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership is taking a leadership role in the celebration of Route 66’s 100th birthday. A five-year series of birthday celebration initiatives begins in 2021, culminating in 2026, the road’s centennial year. A major part of the initiatives involves developing a Visionary Fund to support Route 66 through preservation, economic development, promotion, and research and/or education projects. The Road Ahead’s goal is to position the historic highway, the communities along the road, and the people who live and work there for success during the next 100 years.

Route 66 was commissioned in 1926 and decommissioned in 1985. Though no longer part of the US highway system, the Route 66 continues to be a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international travelers.

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.

US Highway 66 shield in the Smithsonian, Washington DC

2020 Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame Inductees Announced

Every two years, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association inducts two new members into our Hall of Fame for their contributions to the road. Since our first induction and including our 2020 inductees, there are 25 individuals recognized within those ranks.

There is an open nomination period for several months (which includes all previous nominees that had not been selected in years prior) and a small committee selection process takes place. The committee (made up of volunteers within the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association with the President serving as tie-breaker if needed) selects one living recipient and one that has passed on. There is no checklist of criteria; it’s simply a discussion: What was the individual’s contribution?  Was it a one-time project like Luke Robison’s leadership of the group of volunteers that saved the Round Barn or a continuing impact like Jim Ross’ work with historic Oklahoma bridges? How big of an impact did their work have on Route 66 as a whole?

This year, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association is proud to announce that this year’s inductees into the Hall of Fame are: Harley and Annabelle Russell of Erick, Oklahoma.

Harley Russell was born in Erick, Oklahoma in 1945. After graduating high school, he hit the road with his guitar. He had a full life before returning to Erick in the mid-1980s to, as he put it, “clear the cobwebs out.” A few years after he came home, a woman came into his shop to get her guitar worked on. That woman was Annabelle – and she never left. Their love was swift and strong.

Back then, Route 66 wasn’t the tourist attraction it has become today. In fact, originally, Harley and Annabelle’s little shop was a health food store. It slowly evolved from a music store to a place where people could get music lessons to an antique shop. Nothing seemed to fit.

In 1999, Harley and Annabelle were just hanging out, picking on their guitars…when a man poked his head in the door. He asked if he could bring some people inside to listen. Harley said yes…and instead of one or two people an entire busload of tourists poured into their little shop. They had such a good time hootin’ and hollerin’ with Harley and Annabelle that the Russells decided to form the Mediocre Music Makers. They weren’t musicians – they were performers. They were partners.

Harley presents the first picture he has of him and Annabelle together

They encouraged travelers to stop and, “see rednecks work and play in their own environment.” That environment includes an amazing collection of Route 66 memorabilia; the old brick meat market building cannot contain it all. Nor can the Redneck Castle just over yonder. Nothing is for sale because it’s not about the money. It’s about the experience. Harley has joked, “We do not have anything that has to follow any kind of regulation because we can’t even regulate ourselves.”

People from all over the world have stopped in Erick to hear the music; everybody leaves with a story to tell. These travelers are often greeted with the flag of their home country and welcome signs made by Annabelle herself. The lovable Mater from Pixar’s Cars films feels like a child born of this couple, for good reason. The crew stopped here on their research road trip for the first movie.

Harley and Annabelle became beloved institutions of the Mother Road. Entertaining guests was a full-time gig; they survived on the tips and donations from visitors.

Annabelle passed away in 2014 but her presence is still loud and clear here at the Sandhills Curiosity Shop. She asked Harley to keep going, and he does. He continues to entertain visitors from all around the world here in this small town near the Texas border. Those that have stopped here have said that there is no accurate way to describe their visit; you just have to stop and experience it for yourself. It truly is, “Insanity at its finest.”

I found a quote from 2003 that Annabelle said to a traveler. “Happiness doesn’t come from all the things outside; it comes from inside.” The Mediocre Music Makers have been lit that fire of inward happiness for an incalculable number of travelers.

Harley, it’s your turn to get the best of OUR love. Congratulations. Our road wouldn’t be the same without you.

Thank you to Melody Murray of Bazaar on 66 in Elk City for the video!

Harley now has a pair of plaques on display at his shop in Erick and two plaques will also be on display at the Hall of Fame itself at the Route 66 Museum in Clinton, Oklahoma.

Route 66 National Historic Trail Designation Act Returns to the U.S. House

On Monday, September 14, 2020, Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL) introduced HR8240 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, [D-CA] co-sponsored the bill.

The proposed legislation would add Route 66 to the National Historic Trail routes. Known as the Route 66 national Historic Trail Designation Act, it first passed out of the House of Representatives in June 2018. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate, where it underwent some language changes before passing in August 2020.

Route 66 has been a crucial transportation artery for the heartland of America for nearly 100 years. Towns from the Midwest to the West Coast have seen the Mother Road bring tourism, employment, a higher quality of life, and civic pride to their communities. This legislation will allow visitors from around the world to experience the history of Route 66 and provide local businesses and tourism industries along the route with ongoing economic benefits.

Next year, Route 66 celebrates its 95th anniversary. As that historic milestone draws closer, the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership can think of no better birthday present for the road than to make it a National Historic Trail. The Road Ahead commends the efforts of Congressman LaHood and Congresswoman Napolitano in introducing legislation to accomplish this designation.

Established in 2015, with the support of the National Park Service and the World Monuments’ Fund, The 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, as well as economic development.

Contact: Bill Thomas, Chair-Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership rt66theroadahead@gmail.com 217-648-5077

From the Rt 66 Road Ahead Partnership: NTHP Grant Opportunities

National Trust Preservation Fund – Historic Hawaii Foundation

NTHP Funding Opportunities for Route 66 Entities

The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership is encouraging qualified public agencies and 501(c)(3) entities along Route 66 to apply for grants offered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation [NTHP]. There are two different funding opportunities that might apply: NTHP Preservation Grants and African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Grants.

NTHP Preservation Grants are a source of financial assistance for historic sites on Route 66, which is one of the National Trust’s National Treasures. In addition to general preservation grants, the National Trust has dedicated grant funds for several Route 66 states including Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and California. Funds are also available for Modernism and preservation efforts for native cultures in both Arizona and New Mexico. Grants are generally $2,500 to $5,000 and require a 1:1 match that can be cash, in-kind, or staff time funding.

NTHP preservation grants are available for planning, education or outreach related projects. Grants are not available for “bricks and mortar” projects. Applicants must be a public agency, 501(c)(3), or other nonprofit entity. For a private entity to be eligible, it must have an eligible entity as a fiscal agent. Applications are due by or before October 1, 2020. For additional information access NTHP guidelines and eligibility and/or contact grants@savingplaces.org.

African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Grants are designed to help tell our nation’s full history, by drawing attention to the stories that evoke centuries of African American activism and achievement in the United States. Stories and places of African American culture and heritage have always existed, but too often have not been fully acknowledged for the integral role they play in the fabric of American society. These competitive grants range from $50,000-150,000 and support projects in four different areas, including: Capital Projects, Organizational Capacity Building, Project Planning, and Programming and Interpretation.” Matching funds are helpful, but not required. The next deadline for grant applications is in January, 2021. For additional information access: African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund Grants and/or contact grants@savingplaces.org.

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.

Contact:
Bill Thomas, Chairman
Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership
rt66theroadahead@gmail.com
217-648-5077

Oklahoma Route 66 Museum Celebrates 25th Anniversary

When the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton officially opened on September 23, 1995, it was the first facility in the nation dedicated to the history and culture of Route 66, the most famous historic highway in the world. It is the largest museum from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California, dedicated to the history and culture of Route 66.

With over 930,000 visitors in 25 years, the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum has captivated the attention of people from around the world. Since the grand opening celebration held on September 23, 1995, the museum has proven to be a must-see for travelers— both Route 66ers and everyday vacationers.   

In 2007, the accomplishments of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum played a large role in Clinton hosting the  International Festival Route 66 Festival, which brought over 20,000 people to Clinton. The success of the 2007 festival also led to the transformation of the community’s annual Hot Dog Daze into Clinton’s Route 66 Festival.

In 2012, after 17 years, the museum completed a full renovation of all exhibit galleries, bringing the facility into the 21st Century. This achievement was celebrated with a special grand opening ceremony on May 26, 1012.

The museum has hosted a plethora of special events which attract Route 66ers from around the globe.  Beginning in 1996, the museum has held Route 66 anniversary celebrations every five years. These celebrations have featured premiere Route 66 historian Michael Wallis, as well as special exhibits by other Route 66 artists and authors such as the late Bob Waldmire, Shellee Graham, Jim Ross, Jerry McClanahan, Kathy Anderson and many more.

Also, the Oklahoma Route 66 Association inducts special Oklahomans into the Oklahoma Route 66 Hall of Fame.  Inductions are held every two years for individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the promotion and/or preservation of Route 66. The selection includes a nomination and committee process conducted by the association. The winners’ plaques are displayed in the Hall of Fame, which is located in the museum’s WOW! Room.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancelation of this year’s festivities, please help the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum celebrate this milestone anniversary by visiting sometime during the year.

The museum’s galleries are designed to offer visitors a personal journey through the history of the nation’s most revered highway.  Encounter the iconic ideas, images and myths of the Mother Road. Learn about the dreams and labor needed to make the road a reality. Experience the dust bowl as thousands streamed along the road, away from drought and despair and towards the “land of promise.”  Listen to the sounds of the Big Band Era, when the roar of the big trucks and the “Welcome home!” cries to returning soldiers dominated the road. Touch the counter and sit in the booth of the 1950’s diner and feel the open road as America’s families vacationed along the length of Route 66.  The museum also offers changing special exhibits, focusing on the Route 66 experience in our new Now and Future Gallery. And don’t forget to step into our gift shop for some Route 66 Memorabilia!!

While personal hygiene has always been important, the museum has introduced new safety procedures. Staff members ensure all areas are clean and sanitized. In accordance with Oklahoma State Department of Health guidelines, all visitors, staff, volunteers, contractors and vendors are required to wear face masks in public areas of the Oklahoma Historical Society museums, sites and affiliates, including the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum.

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and is closed Sunday and Monday. The museum is located at 2229 W. Gary Blvd. in Clinton, OK. Regular admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, $4 for children, and ages 5 and under are free.  For further information, please contact Pat Smith at telephone (580) 323-7866 or via email patsm@okhistory.org.

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve, and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state.  Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.

Senate Passes Route 66 Centennial Legislation

From the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership:

Washington, DC – The Route 66 Centennial Commission Act (S1014) passed by unanimous consent out of the US Senate on August 10, 2020. After the measure is reconciled with the bill already passed by the House, it will go to President Trump for his signature. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) introduced the bill on April 3, 2019, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of historic Route 66. The Commission will help plan this historic event for this iconic road that symbolizes the heritage of travel and the shared legacy of Americans seeking a better life.

Fifteen Commissioners will be appointed on the recommendation of the President, members of Congress, and Governors of the eight Route 66 states. Appointees will have demonstrated both a dedication to educating others about the importance of historical figures and events, and a substantial knowledge and appreciation of Route 66.

The Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, is taking the lead in orchestrating the celebration of Route 66’s 100th birthday gala celebration in 2026, and it is starting immediately. A five-year series of birthday celebration initiatives begins in 2021, culminating in 2026, the road’s centennial year. Think of the initiatives as “birthday presents” that individuals, corporations, foundations, organizations, communities, and businesses are invited to give Route 66 over the next five years.

The purpose of these gifts is to support Route 66 through preservation, economic development, promotion, research, and/or education projects. The goal is to position the historic highway, the communities along the road, and the people who live there for success during the next 100 years. “We are very thankful to Senators Duckworth and Inhofe for their support of the Commission bill”, said Bill Thomas, Road Ahead Chairman. “They, along with the state Route 66 Associations and many grassroots supporters of Route 66, have put in place what we need to plan and carry out a “Party with a Purpose” – helping Route 66.”

Route 66 was commissioned in 1926 and decommissioned in 1985. Though no longer part of the US highway system, the road continues to be a popular tourist destination for both domestic and international travelers.

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.

Contact:
Bill Thomas, Chairman
Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership
rt66theroadahead@gmail.com
217-648-5077

Update on the Blue Whale of Catoosa

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 Blue Whale remains open daily. Follow along with them on Facebook to stay up-to-date with changes: https://www.facebook.com/blue.whale.144/

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.

Oklahoma Humanities HOPE Grant

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.