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Route 66 News

Elkhart strives to keep its “quaint” look

The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Ill., published a story today about how a volunteer project in the small town of Elkhart, Ill., keeps the town looking more attractive to Route 66 tourists — many of which are from foreign countries.

Elkhart started its 2012 Clean & Green initiative in January to keep the town clean, safe and green.

Villagers are asked to be on the lookout for abandoned vehicles, dead animals, blocked/flooded drains and gutters, grass that needs to be cut, damaged/faulty street lights, overflowing garbage cans, damaged/obstructed sidewalks and vandalism. […]

On the other hand, people also can nominate a local home, business or person with outstanding properties for Clean & Green’s “Elkhart in Bloom” competition. A horticultural contest conducted through August, Elkhart in Bloom has several categories: front garden, doorstep/front porch, environmental garden, commercial/retail premises and outstanding contribution by a citizen.

The program may seem a tad nosy, but why the village is doing it becomes clear:

Visitors have come from at least 29 foreign countries and 42 states since Niehaus began her first business, Horsefeathers antiques & gift shop, in 2004.

“Because of Route 66, the village being right on the old road, so many people travel through. We continue year in and year out having people from all over the world,” Niehaus said.

“They have a great fondness for Elkhart. They absolutely love Elkhart. It’s so quaint and so unspoiled.” […]

“Central Illinois and this little village sort of personify in people’s minds what the heart of America is really like — that quaintness and steadfastness … and open spaces and old buildings,” Niehaus said. “It just has a particular charm, and I think it’s different from the countries that these people are traveling from.”

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