Route 66 News

Has a sea change occurred with Route 66 tourism?

About 100 residents of the St. Louis suburb of Crestwood, Mo., recently gave opinions on how to revitalize the Watson Road, aka Route 66, according to an article in Call Newspapers.

It’s encouraging enough so many showed up to an alderman’s town-hall meeting. But what intrigued me is so many people cited Route 66 as a way to revamp the corridor — including the idea of building a museum:

Residents liked the idea of branding and marketing Crestwood as a Route 66 tourist destination, possibly through a museum.

Some of the other possibilities they suggested include an entertainment complex or drive-in theater at the mall site with a name related to Route 66 or a trolley traveling up and down Watson Road. […]

Truman Middle School social-studies teacher Jane Hake threw her support behind a Route 66 museum in Crestwood and offered to take any members of the crowd on a field trip to see a similar museum in Illinois that is popular with the thousands of people who travel the route each year. She also suggested that perhaps students from Lindbergh Schools could collaborate on a service-learning project to help research the city’s Route 66-related history.

There’s more in the article. Whether a Route 66 museum would be a good idea in Crestwood is debatable, especially considering Illinois has at least three.

But that’s not what struck me about the article. As one who lived in the St. Louis metro area for most of the 1990s and half of the following decade, I could attest the region — especially the Missouri side — showed mostly disinterest in Route 66. The way the nearby town of Marlborough, Mo., acted about its historic motels — including the long-gone Art Deco masterpiece, the Coral Court — you would have thought it wanted to erase them from memory.

But thinking in recent days about the Mother Road in general, it’s become clear Route 66 tourism has gained a lot more interest from its towns and cities. Maybe they’re seeing the success of towns such as Pontiac, Ill., Atlanta, Ill., and Seligman, Ariz., that embraced the Mother Road’s heritage. Or maybe city officials across the country were swayed by the Route 66 economic impact study from Rutgers University.

Something seems to be happening about the public perception of Route 66 tourism. Maybe it’s not a sea change, but it’s close.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. Maybe I’m off my rocker. But it seems clear such interest in Mother Road tourism would have been unthinkable in many areas just 15 years ago, about the time I became interested in it.

(Image of the Crestwood Bowl sign in Crestwood, Mo., by Dave Fey via Flickr)


3 thoughts on “Has a sea change occurred with Route 66 tourism?

  1. Frank

    The short answer is yes there is a change. Here are a few of the reasons that has happened. (maybe a little off topic)

    Route 66 does not recognize age. I have noticed an increase in popularity amongst the younger generation. The internet with social media has
    enabled the spread of experiences across the globe. It is really the younger generation that is making Route 66 a destination. Travelers can
    create their own experience along the route whether it be riding a horse, bicycle, jumping a rope – you name it. They are the stars of the road
    and want to share their antics and are often encouraged along the way. It is their stage. I have met more younger travelers saying that they
    want to bring their parents back next time than the other way around. We have seen a drastic increase in younger travelers. Most are genuinely
    interested hearing the history and socializing. They can do this on Route 66 with no agenda.

    Route 66 has thousands of billboards on the internet highway, you being one of the first with your blasting the internet with information.
    Everyone’s blog and videos have contributed and also made them part of the experience. Route 66 is the theme park where you can be a part of
    the experience either reminiscing or creating your own entertainment.

    Commerce along and about Route 66 encourages creativity just as it did many years ago. Most vendors are not just offering a t-shirt; they are
    offering an experience. Vendors who offer an experience along with retail items (such as t-shirts) in reality are providing travelers the
    opportunity to buy a memory of their trip. If they just wanted a t-shirt, they could go to Wall Mart or any other big box store.

    Foreign Interest:
    Route 66 Associations around the world have been a great influence and source of interest in Route 66. Again we include them in the “hands on”

    Enjoy the contagious excitement, liveliness and hope for the future that our next generation brings. I believe that they are a big factor in a
    sea of change that you mentioned.

    Frank and Lynne

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