Route 66 News

Will the Route 66 festival transform Kingman?

The Kingman Daily Miner newspaper posted an interesting article this week about Route 66’s growing economic influence and whether the upcoming International Route 66 Festival will transform the host town of Kingman, Arizona.

The article borrows heavily from the influential Route 66 Economic Impact Study and anecdotal evidence on how Route 66 affects other towns, including examples in Kingman itself.

The whole story is worth reading in full. But one angle that’s been overlooked is Kingman lacks a key Route 66 hub to attract significant crowds of tourists.

Here are several towns that thrive with Route 66 tourism because of a must-stop Route 66 hub, and a nearby town that often gets passed by because it doesn’t:

  • Stroud, Oklahoma, which has the Rock Cafe, vs. Bristow, Oklahoma.
  • Seligman, Arizona, which has Angel Delgadillo’s barbershop and the Snow Cap Drive-In, vs. Ash Fork, Arizona.
  • Pontiac, Illinois, which has the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame and Museum, vs. Chenoa, Illinois.
  • Arcadia, Oklahoma, which has Pops and the Round Barn, vs. Luther, Oklahoma.
  • Tucumcari, New Mexico, which has the Blue Swallow Motel, vs. Santa Rosa, New Mexico.

That’s not to say that Kingman isn’t trying to set up a Route 66 hub. The Powerhouse Museum and Mr. D’z diner are worthwhile stops, but neither yet has the cachet of becoming indisputable destinations for Route 66 travelers.

This doesn’t mean Kingman should quit trying, either. Tulsa, for example, lacks a big destination for Route 66 travelers, but that doesn’t mean still-new Woody Guthrie Center or the long-planned Route 66 museum won’t eventually become one. In the case of Kingman, perhaps something else — such in its historic downtown — will eventually develop into a big attraction.

The point of this post is folks in Kingman shouldn’t get too excited over the effect of one little festival. If Kingman becomes transformed, it will be because of its entrepreneurs or historic preservationists over a period of years, not because of a four-day event.

(Image of the Kingman Club sign in Kingman, Arizona, by Tom Roche via Flickr)


2 thoughts on “Will the Route 66 festival transform Kingman?

  1. Hubble Ray Smith

    One thing that sets Kingman apart from above mentioned towns like Pontiac, Ill., and Stroud, Okla., and Seligman, Ariz., is that Kingman is part of the lyrics of Bobby Stroud’s Route 66 song. Don’t underestimate the historical and international recognition from that song. That’s why Joplin got 10,000 people and Victorville got 3,000. Also, we have a nice railroad museum that’s an attraction for railroad buffs and I’d venture to say we have the most hot-rod shops per capita. And of course, nobody’s going to be driving through Joplin or Pontiac or Oklahoma City during the winter.

  2. Rick Martin

    With my father having built a motel in Ash Fork I would say to do as well as Seligmen you need an “Angel” looking after you for an extended time.

    Kingman was one of my favorite stops as a kid headed from LA to Ash Fork because we always stopped to see the big steam engine on display. Hoping they do really well this year.

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