Dec 282012
 




I spoke with Bill Thomas and he mentioned to me if anyone wantes to do this (which I am!) – should use ‘outdoor paint’ on these signs as they will – obviously – be displayed outside. I will let you know when I receive mine!

ATLANTA — As a member of the Atlanta Betterment Fund, businessman Bill Thomas is a firm believer in holding brainstorming sessions and discussing ideas that could generate positive feedback for the Logan County community.

And almost always, Thomas said, the town’s connection to Route 66 tends to be the focus.

“We often take an idea, incorporate other ideas from projects that have worked either here or someplace else, and come up with a plan,” Thomas said.

The newest plan is based on Chicago’s “Cows on Parade” exhibit, a 1999 idea in which local artists, architects, photographers and designers painted, decorated and dressed up fiberglass cow statues and then displayed them around the city for several months.

The first Route 66 Reinterpreted” project will encourage artists to create their own take on the U.S. Route 66 Highway Shield. Each will be provided a blank 2- by 2-foot wooden cutout of the shield, painted white, which will become their personal canvas.

The only requirement is to incorporate the text “Illinois U.S. 66” somewhere on the face of the shield. The signs will be put on permanent display along the route.

“It is just a great way to get people to visit our town and see something different,” said Atlanta resident Dale Colaw, a member of the Atlanta Betterment Fund board of directors. “It reminds me of the old Burma Shave signs we had out near the entrances to town which we had local artists do, but now those are so damaged and they don’t resemble what they once were.”

The project is open to anyone over age 16 and Thomas said up to 50 entries will be accepted. All entries will be displayed along Route 66 in downtown Atlanta from May through Aug. 31.

“This is a great way to bring national attention to Route 66,” said Geoff Ladd, President of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway. “Stay tuned for this because once it is done, there will be big celebration and we will have some beautiful art to showcase when we do.”

The Atlanta Betterment Fund board will select 10 shields as finalists and the public can vote at selected Route 66 attractions or at www.atlantaillinois.org. Five winning shields, along with the names of the artists who created them, will be displayed permanently in the Atlanta Route 66 Park.

Completed applications, including a $25 entry fee, are due Feb. 1. More information is at www.atlantaillinois.org.

Kevin Barlow – Pantagraph.com

Nov 082012
 

 



My good friend Rich Henry sent me an Email asking to help reach out to support a clause close to his heart…

Big Red is helping support and promote the House Rabbit Society, St Louis, Mo, chapter in selling their annual calendar for 2013. He did not want me to mention, that he is the September bunnie on it (see picture). All proceeds, other than mailing costs, will go directly to the Missouri House Rabbit Society. It is a very nice, heavy quality calendar.

Price, including shipping within continental United States for one calendar is $15.00. Save on shipping on mulitiple calendar orders. Pickup at Henrys Ra66it Ranch for $10.00 each. If requested on a calendar for no extra charge we will add a personal touch to it. For more info, questions, or to order e-mail us direct at Route66@midwest.net.

Please do not respond thru the group e-mail to us. They make excellent presents, whether Christmas or otherwise.

The House Rabbit Society is a non-profit 501,C3 organization. Their goal is to save abandoned rabbits and find forever homes for them. For more info on the HRS go to http://www.rabbit.org. Most of our bunnies here at Henrys Ra66it Ranch are rescues with a few being children born of rescue parents.

Thank-you, Rich, Big Red and rest of Queen Montana’s legacy

Oct 032012
 





Well, this is disappointing news. I (personally) thought this was a great idea to restore an old gas station into a local museum not only to show off Litchfield’s history, but also to celebrate the route which travels right trough it…

LITCHFIELD — Organizers of the Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center have their work cut out for them in their effort to win financial support from the city.

The Litchfield City Council on Tuesday effectively rejected their request for $20,000 to pay for display cases and other furnishings for the Art Deco-style museum, currently under construction at the former site of the Vic Shuling gas station along Historic Route 66.

The council split 4-4, and Mayor Tom Jones abstained. The money would have come from the city’s tourism fund, which is supported by a local tax on hotels and motels.

“The museum is nearly done (being built),” city administrator Andy Ritchie said. “We just hope it carries itself.”

Jones said he abstained from voting because he has “no opinion one way or the other.”

“I’m not opposed to the museum at all,” he said, but organizers shouldn’t have started building before they lined up money to furnish the museum.

Smaller request

After originally asking for $100,000, organizers pared the request down to $20,000 this summer. The city asked them to come back with a more detailed business plan. Representatives from the museum association met individually with city council members prior to a committee meeting last week, gave them a copy of the museum’s “very detailed business plan,” and briefed them on its contents, Ritchie said.

Lonnie Bathurst, a local businessman who chairs the museum’s steering committee and helped develop the business plan, said the aldermen who voted against using money earmarked for tourism promotion to help the museum aren’t seeing the bigger picture.

Travelers along Route 66 spend millions of dollars each year in communities from Chicago to Southern California, Bathurst said.

“We happen to be lucky enough to be on there. We’re just not capitalizing on it in the biggest way possible,” he said. “A museum of that size and cost and magnitude, in terms of its quality, would compare to maybe only half a dozen others along the whole length of the highway.”

While it’s possible for the museum to get off the ground without city support, Bathurst said, “it would be much easier to have the city behind it going forward.”

“I don’t think we’re finished in our efforts with the city council,” he said.

Fundraising continues

Organizers also hope the city will devote a half-percent from the 3 percent hotel tax to help cover the museum’s operating expenses, but they haven’t made a formal request.

Dan Petrella – The State Journal-Register

Oct 022012
 






Joliet has really stepped up its game in realizing Route 66 is an important part of it’s town…

An illuminated, interactive “hub” directing visitors to Route 66 tourism sites in downtown Joliet will be erected sometime this fall, Assistant City Manager Ben Benson said.

The kiosk is already in hand and it’s likely location will be somewhere along Ottawa Street, near the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, Benson said.

“Many consider Joliet the gateway to Route 66 through Illinois,” he said. “The need we have is to help direct people to visit local attractions.”

The three-part display is one of about 20 that will be installed in towns that dot the “Mother Road” across Illinois, now designated and Illinois Scenic Byway. The idea is for drivers following the historic trail to stop in towns along the way to learn about the road’s history and what Route 66-related sites each municipality has to offer.

Hundreds of people take the Route 66 journey every year, starting at Buckingham Fountain in Chicago and following the highway sections that remain all the way to Los Angeles. Route 66 was one of the first cross-country interstates in the U.S. Highway system, officially opening on Nov. 11, 1926, and formally removed on June 27, 1985.

Berwyn is the first town to put up their commemorative kiosk, and more will be rolled out over the next year in towns such as Wilmington, Lincoln, Pontiac and Carlinville.

Joliet’s display is being funded with a grant from Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the city will use on-staff workers to do the installation and a local electrical company to hook up the wiring, Benson said.

There has been some debate about where Joliet’s sign should go given that southbound Route 66 follows what is now Route 53/Chicago Street through the city. At one point it was to go in at Bicentennial Park because the Heritage Corridor tourism office located there. Ultimately, however, it was decided the best location was near the Route 66 Visitors Center, where most making the pilgimage are likely to stop, Benson said.

Karen Sorensen – Joliet Patch

Sep 062012
 


I remember growing up in Chicago seeing this thing MANY times – it was so out of place, in the middle of a parking lot, with a Ford Pinto literally skinned and spread out on a wall of a store not too far from the spindle. This is a really good idea!!

Berwyn, IL — The Berwyn Arts Council is hoping to bring back a recreated version of The Spindle, which had been an icon for Berwyn for years when it was torn down in 2008.

The sculpture, often referred to as the “car kebab,” stood in the Cermak Plaza parking lot and was featured in the movie “Wayne’s World,” and even an outpouring of support couldn’t save it from demolition.

Unbeknownst to most, the top two cars of the sculpture were saved in a shed behind Cermak Plaza. Now, a movement spearheaded by Berwyn Route 66 Museum and Berwyn Arts Council member John Fey has taken possession of the two cars and is working toward recreating the piece of art.

The cars will need to be restored, and a pole that used to support an Anderson Ford sign already has been secured to hold the two cars.

Once completed, the sculpture will be erected at the parking lot of the Route 66 Museum on Ogden Avenue.

The VW Beetle also will be on display at the Route 66 Car Show on Saturday, where the Berwyn Arts Council will be fundraising for the project.

Fey also said that a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign is in the works to fund the project.

Brett Schweinberg – GateHouse News Service

Aug 302012
 


The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is purchasing a one-of-a-kind piece of folk art for a future roadside attraction that will greet Route 66 travelers visiting Wilmington.

The Chamber is working with the city to purchase and place a metal sculpture of a bison created by Jack Barker of Essex.

Barker, who has been featured in countless newspaper articles, magazines and travel books, died May 16 of this year. His family is planning an auction in September to sell his metal art and there is great interest in his works by art museums, universities and institutions.

Motorists driving south into Essex have been greeted by Barker’s metal sculptures for years. As his collection of artworks grew in front of his former auto body shop, the bison was among the more notable pieces, often photographed since it was closest to the road.

Why would Wilmington want the bison? While there is a long approval process ahead, planning is underway to someday raise bison at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.  Midewin bison will become a big draw for the community as tourists by the busload will travel here to experience this new addition to the prairie. They will seek out nearby restaurants, shopping and photo opportunities during their visit. 
 
“Jack Barker’s metal art could be that draw,” commented Chamber president Eric Fisher. “It’s a one-of-a-kind piece made by a local artist. It is the perfect anchor for a Wilmington landmark and someday it will be just like the Gemini Giant in helping to put Wilmington on the map.”

The artwork is appraised at over $8,000. City administrator Tony Graff spoke with the Barker family, asking if they would take less, or at least hold it out of the Sept. 22 estate sale. Eleanor Barker, Jack’s widow, and son Jack, Jr. agreed to sell it for $4,950.

Fisher sent an email blast to chamber members and 20 responses were in favor of making the purchase; three were opposed; four businesses offered donations.

“The price is right and the city is willing to work with us in getting it moved and stored for now,” Fisher said. “We will have to raise funds in the near future but for now we have sent the Barkers a check to let them know we are committed.”

There is potential to put it on the point near the walkbridge or at the entrance to the South Island Park.

Aug 272012
 

 


LITCHFIELD — The Litchfield City Council earlier this month discussed allowing the city’s tourism coordinator to work out of the new Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center, but postponed a vote on the issue until organizers present a detailed business plan.

Organizers of the museum, which is under construction on the former site of the Vic Suhling gas station on Historic Route 66, still are putting together a plan that will include a request for funding from the city.

City administrator Andy Ritchie said the council wants to be sure tourism coordinator Carol Burke won’t end up running the museum if volunteer staff members don’t show up as scheduled.

“We’re just making sure the tax money for the city tourism coordinator is being used for city tourism,” Ritchie said.

The history

In addition to wanting the tourism coordinator to work out of the new museum, organizers asked the city for hotel-motel tax money to help pay for furnishings and displays in the Art Deco-inspired building.

Organizers initially requested $100,000. After whittling that down to $20,000, the city council in July said it needed more detail on how the money would be spent .

Delaying the decisions is not a sign of “malice” or “a negative thought process” about the museum, Ritchie said.

City officials support the project, but also need to make sure they’re being good stewards of taxpayers’ money, he said.

In fact, Ritchie took a 2,402-mile bike trip along Route 66 this summer to raise money for the museum. He started from Santa Monica Pier in California and, after 30 days of riding, arrived in Chicago on June 10.

The trip has raised about $15,000 so far, and Ritchie said he’s still collecting on some pledges.

What’s next?

Martha Jackson, president of the nonprofit Litchfield Museum & Route 66 Welcome Center Association, said the group hopes to present its business plan and funding proposal to the city council at its October meeting.

The museum, which Jackson dreamed up as a way to share local artifacts her husband, the late Dave Jackson, gathered while working at the Litchfield News-Herald newspaper, is expected to open this fall.

An exact date has not been set, Jackson said.

By Dan Petrella -The State Journal-Register

Aug 212012
 



 

It almost makes sense seeing the way the (electric) car is going – BUT it is VERY pricey to install each charging station….

ATLANTA — It’s back to the future for the village of Atlanta.

Route 66, which runs through the village of 1,600, was the impetus for the original development and growth of gasoline service stations, said Bill Thomas, a director for the Atlanta Betterment Fund, an economic development group based in Atlanta. Now, local leaders think they can jump-start a movement for the next wave of fueling stations, this time for electric cars.

“Prior to Route 66, there really was no established infrastructure of business at which the new traveling public could fill up their car with gas,” Thomas said. “All sorts of other businesses, like hardware stores, grocery stores and general stores, installed gas pumps in front of their establishments where motorists could fill up. What we think of as gas stations didn’t exist. They came when entrepreneurs recognized the need for them and built them as a way of making money from Route 66 travelers.”

The city has installed two EV (electric vehicle) charging stations in the city parking lot, just one-half block from Old Route 66. The charging stations will be available free of charge to the traveling public.

“We’re into the next evolution of Route 66, and we hope that it becomes an opportunity to promote tourism and what we have to offer here,” Mayor Fred Finchum said. “Every time you draw someone to your community, you have a chance of selling something. For a full charge on a car, it takes three to four hours, so people have time to eat, shop, and visit our downtown.”

Thomas and Finchum believe the highway may become a destination for travelers going from St. Louis to Chicago.

Atlanta is the perfect spot for a charging station because it is right in the middle of the state,” Thomas said.

The city purchased and installed the machines, but Finchum said he anticipates they will quickly pay for themselves.

“Our research indicates that the power it takes to charge a vehicle is really pennies on the dollar,” he said.

The machines will be dedicated during a ceremony at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Among the first people to take advantage of the charging stations will be Joe Mikulecky, the Bloomington-Normal Electric Vehicle Task Force chairman.

“For this to work, the timing has to be right,” Mikulecky said, “and I think Atlanta has some foresight to showcase their tourism trade. It’s about public perception and thinking ahead. Electric cars are the wave of the future, and I am anxious to see how this works.”

“What you have with electric vehicles is kind of a ‘chicken and egg’ argument,” said Bill Kelly, the executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway Heritage Project. “Electric cars are coming, and Route 66 is a perfect venue for them, because they don’t go as fast as fuel-powered cars. But people need to have the confidence that they can find charging stations, and so the more power stations that are available, the more people will be willing to use the electric cars. It’s a great idea for Atlanta, and I believe it will work well.”

By KEVIN BARLOW – Lee News Service Writer

May 202012
 



I have said it before and I will say it again – the Illinois Route 66 Association gets it! They are the shining examples of how to keep not only the route alive – but to prosper from it.

ATLANTA — While Atlanta may have a small population, it boasts a pair of giant tourist attractions — Route 66 and a 19-foot-tall statue that looms over it.

More than a dozen volunteers came from Illinois and beyond Saturday to wash and paint Atlanta’s Bunyon’s Statue — a giant man holding a hot dog — to ensure it remains a Route 66 icon for years to come.

Similar statues were once popular and designed to attract people to businesses. Atlanta’s giant originally stood for 38 years on Route 66 in Cicero, drawing customers to Bunyon’s restaurant.

When it closed in 1993, the restaurant’s owners loaned the legendary figure to Atlanta, where it draws tourists to the town of nearly 1,700.

While the one-of-a-kind Route 66 icon draws smiles and laughter from visitors, he’s a “serious factor” when it comes to economic development. The statue draws thousands from all over the world each year, said Atlanta business owner Bill Thomas, who helped bring the attraction to the city.

“There’s no where else in the world you can have your photo taken with a 19-foot man holding a hot dog,” Thomas said.

Thomas was at the statue talking with a three-man film crew Friday afternoon when two carloads of people stopped to have their photo snapped.

“That happens time and time again,” Thomas said.

And it’s not just people from the Midwest.

Saturday morning, as volunteers refurbished the statue, two visitors from Odernheim, Germany, stopped on their way from Chicago to Los Angeles.

“It’s history and was a dream,” said Klaus Dreesbach of why he decided two years ago to plan the motorcycle trip on Route 66.

Dreesbach and friend Rolf Mau weren’t surprised to see the fiberglass giant.

“We have read in a trip book about them,” said Mau, who described Atlanta as a “nice, typical, western city.”

Restoration effort

The opportunity to help preserve the giant also drew enthusiasts from as far away as Iowa and Michigan.

“I’m impressed by what people want to do to help,” said John Weiss, chair of the preservation committee of the Route 66 Association of Illinois and organizer of the work day. Those who are interested in getting involved can visit www.il66assoc.org for more information.

“It’s my wife’s birthday and it’s what she wanted,” said Joe Foster, who traveled from Urbandale, Iowa, with wife, Kara, and daughter, Ella Hendricks, 8.

“Route 66 is my passion, and he’s grown to like it,” said Kara, who painted one of the statue’s arms and the mustard on the hot dog.

Bill Kelley, who grew up hearing stories of Route 66 from his parents, came from Eastpointe, Mich., to help.

“Disneyworld and Vegas aren’t for everybody,” said Kelley of his passion for Route 66.

Volunteer Jerry Law, of Wood River, agreed. “To me, Route 66 has everything I want.”

Jan 252012
 



Bill Thomas remembers the response when he suggested developing the Logan County village of Atlanta, population 1,635, as a Route 66 tourist attraction.

“Fifteen years ago, that was laughed at,” Thomas said.

Nobody’s laughing today.

Communities throughout central Illinois — from Atlanta to Williamsville to Litchfield — are benefiting from efforts to market their ties to the famous road — and to attract some of the thousands of visitors who trace its path from Chicago to the West Coast each year.

In Atlanta, sales tax revenue jumped 43 percent last year during the peak tourism season of April to August compared to four years ago, before the opening of the Atlanta Museum and the reopening of the 1930s-era Palms Grill Cafe. Both buildings in the 100 block of S.W. Arch St. are owned by the Atlanta Public Library.

The two endeavors were Atlanta’s first efforts to generate revenue from the steady trickle of Route 66 travelers who drive through the town every summer.

Atlanta had long been a favorite stop with its library packed with memorabilia, a 19-foot-tall fiberglass Paul Bunyan-like statue holding a super-sized hot dog and advertising murals painted on the brick buildings lining Route 66.

Today, visitors can take a walking tour of the community, eat at the Palms Grill and trace where their corn flakes come from at the J.H. Hawes Grain Elevator Museum, housed in a restored 1904 grain elevator.

The increase in foot traffic led to the opening of two new businesses: the Route 66 Gift Shop, which sells memorabilia and vintage items, and the Arch Street Artisan Shop.

“The city really got behind this push,” said Mayor Fred Finchum, who served on the village board when Thomas first proposed the idea. “It took a while to wrap our minds around it. But we thought, what we’re doing to try to bring people in isn’t working.

“What else can we do?”

Atlanta leaders are still asking that question, but today they are looking at historical aspects of their community tourists might be drawn to.

Packaging the past

This spring, Atlanta will begin preparing a walking trail and signage around a quarter-mile of the original Route 66 pavement north of town. Officials also plan to open a coal-mining exhibit next to the grain elevator museum.

The community also has purchased an 1891 residence that served as a rooming house for Route 66 travelers in the 1940s, before motels were readily available. The city plans to offer the same service to modern travelers, although the Atlanta Route 66 Rooming House isn’t expected to open until 2013.

Copyright 2012 The State Journal-Register.