Route 66 in the News

Promoting Route 66 Attractions

2010-06-26 11:42:52

GALENA, Kan. - When international visitors traveling Route 66 stop at Four Women on the Route, they often ask the location of the nearest pub.

There isn't one in Galena, but there will be. Its target market is those international and domestic Route 66 roadies.

A handful of convention-goers to the Tri-State Route 66 International Adventure recently helped Danny Charles and T.J. Davis clean up the 1895 building that will become their pub and pizzeria on historic Route 66 in downtown Galena.

It's an example of how towns and businesses are leveraging their connection to the Mother Road.

Charles, 27, is the son of Renee Charles, and Davis, 30, is the son of Melba Rigg, two of the Four Women on the Route. Four Women on the Route, at First and Main streets in Galena, sells Route 66 souvenirs and has a restaurant in a restored Route 66 gas station. It has become a regular stop for Route 66 roadies.

Davis said they were grateful for the help from the Route 66 convention-goers.

"These people are passionate about the route," he said. He said they hope to open the business in the fall.

Area businesses, towns, counties and states market their Route 66 attractions, but an important aspect of the marketing is word-of-mouth among roadies.

Sue Stringer, spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Transportation, and Kelli Hillard, assistant tourism marketing manager with the Kansas Department of Commerce, recently made a presentation at the summit meeting. They promoted the Kansas Scenic Byways and said a Route 66 Historic Byway would be a natural fit and intersect with the Frontier Military Scenic Byway along the eastern border of Kansas. Kansas received about $5 million from the federal byways program last year, Stringer said.

Stringer said Kansas would like to coordinate with Missouri on a Route 66 Historic Byway. Oklahoma already has designated its section of Route 66 under the federal byways program.

A transportation consulting firm hired by the Route 66 Association of Missouri met in March with the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization about getting the federal byway designation for the historic highway in Missouri.

Hillard also stressed the importance of Route 66 promoters staying in touch with their state tourism offices about events and using social media, including Facebook and Twitter, to promote their businesses.

She said her agency also works with travel writers in identifying stories.

Chuck Surface, city administrator in Webb City, Mo., said the town hopes to launch its Route 66 Welcome Center in August. Housed in a restored gas station, the project has received grants from the Missouri Department of Transportation and the Jasper County Industrial Development Authority.

Surface said when it opens, it will include literature about businesses and places to visit in Webb City and Jasper County. He said Mayor John Biggs will paint a mural with a Route 66 theme inside the building.

He said land also is being set aside for use as a park for Route 66 travelers. Surface said when a location is established, word gets around to roadies within a year or so. Then they are placed on maps for overseas visitors.

"We're marketing Route 66," Surface said. "We're excited."

The Mother Road Marathon on Oct. 10, with a route stretching from Commerce, Okla., to Joplin, Mo., is another effort to spotlight the area's Route 66 link. Vince Lindstrom, director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, informed convention-goers about the marathon.

Jasper County Commissioner Jim Honey said part of the reason behind the Route 66 display at the courthouse in Carthage is to get visitors to linger and visit some other spots on the square and nearby.

The historic Coleman Theatre in Miami, Okla., also is a common stop for Route 66 travelers, said Barbara Smith, theater executive director. She said some roadies stay for a few hours, some stay for a show and some stay overnight.

Smith said the theater advertises its shows in a 150-mile radius of Miami, but the advertising is wider for the building. She said she sometimes goes with Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau director Amanda Davis to conventions of bus tour promoters. The effort is funded by a hotel and motel tax.

Smith said work is progressing on a Route 66 publication that will include sites along the route from Miami, Okla., to Carthage, Mo.

Jim Conkle, of Phelan, Calif., co-director of the Route 66 Alliance, a national group, said Route 66 is an international icon, and states and towns must find ways to take advantage of that.

"We do a good job of promoting it," Conkle said. "We've got to continue to promote it."

He said some towns would die if not for the newfound attention to Route 66.

"We're helping the national economy," he said.

Conkle and the alliance's other co-director Rick Freeland at the summit also highlighted another marketing effort for the historic road, as an environmentally friendly highway.

Freeland said Route 66 enthusiasts are encouraging people to travel the highway in alternative-fuel vehicles, including those powered by electricity, hydrogen and natural gas.

"Alternative-fuel vehicles is the future," Conkle said. "Forget fossil fuel. We're going to marry Route 66 with this new technology."

Federal Express debuted its all-electric delivery truck in April on a Route 66 road trip, which included local stops.

George Game, with the Canadian Route 66 Association, was at the convention and was one of those on the crew in Galena. He said the Canadian association's membership of 100 includes people from as far away as Switzerland and Germany.

"That's our job," he said of marketing Route 66. "That's what we do." He said he and his wife promote their enthusiasm for Route 66 at every opportunity, including on the plane ride to the convention.

Renee Charles, with Four Women on the Route and a convention organizer, said she doesn't think local residents necessarily appreciate Route 66, or the international attraction of the Mother Road.

"I don't think locals realize how many people are into Route 66," Charles said.

~Roger McKinney, Joplin Globe


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