Apr 092013
 




A BIG thank you and congrats to our good friend Willem Bor on his fine work of art!!!!

Pontiac, Ill. — A reception for the debut of a scale model of the Standard Oil Gas Station located on Route 66 in Odell was just the beginning of plans that Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum and Resource Center Director Tim Dye has for the museum during the upcoming tourism season.

With the annual events such as the Red Carpet Corridor coming up in less than a month on May 5 and 6, as well as Pontiac’s Pre-War Festival scheduled for May 25, Dye has plans to host a number of automobile clubs over the tourism season and change many of the museum’s vehicle displays. One upcoming display in particular will be a Pontiac NASCAR vehicle from the late 1980s formerly driven by Michael Waltrip.

“We are in talks with the owner and trying to coordinate with the other cars,” said Dye. “But in the first part of May, a lot of the cars are going to change out. We want people to keep coming back and I think we need to keep it interesting.”

The first of many display changes began on Saturday with a reception the museum had for a gas station model created by Netherlands artist Willem Bor, who Dye said is known for his re-creation of historic Route 66 landmarks and his donation of those models to local museums and tourist collections.

The model was commemorated with speakers who were friends of Bor — Jerry Alger of Michigan and Rich Dinkela II of St. Peters, Mo. Mayor Robert T. Russell was also on hand to say a few words.

“It was a very nice debut,” said Dye. “Being a car museum located on Route 66, we felt the gas station was a good fit for us. We are happy that he wanted to donate the model so that we can share it with people. I like to tie in with local things as much as I can, so it’s an honor to display this at the museum.”

With this being only the second tourism season for the auto museum, Dye said indications are showing this year has the potential to be bigger in terms of numbers of visitors compared to last year’s tourism season. Dye said the Red Carpet Corridor unofficially kicks off the tourism season. Not long after that, this year’s Pre-War Festival, celebrating Americana prior to World War II, is scheduled to showcase a group of Franklin motor cars — a model discontinued in the 1930s which was known for it’s air-cooled engine, a unique trait in the time period.

“For the most part, they are known for being big, luxurious cars,” said Dye. “Local collector Alan Finkenbinder has a couple of them and I am working with him to set up the tourism route. The car club will be here for three or four days.”

At this point, Dye said he is not sure how big the Pre-War Festival will be in terms of outside participation. Dye hopes the weather issues that plagued last year’s event won’t be an issue this year. After those initial festivals, Dye said the museum is planning to host a steady stream of car clubs.

“Some weekends we’ve already booked two different car clubs. In September we are hosting the GTO Association of America for their regional meet again. I foresee lots of car groups coming. If you’re a car fanatic, this will be another good summer.”

Within the next month, Dye plans to switch out many of the display cars in the museum. He is also working on a new display for the big walk-in case.

“When you are open seven-days a week, you can only do so much at one time,” said Dye. “Penny and I are so busy with the operation of the museum, the days just fly by. It’s hard to say the impact we’re having on the tourism by numbers, but it’s got to be helping.”

By Luke Smucker – Pontiac Daily Leader

Oct 142011
 



The honeymooners from Spain spoke limited English, but that didn’t stop Mayor Bob Russell from giving them a hearty welcome to his community.

“How long have you been here?” Russell asked, posing for a snapshot with the newlyweds by a giant Route 66 mural before moving on to greet a busload of French tourists.

“There are visitors on the street all day long,” he said, smiling. “This has brought new life to our community.”

While many small towns across the country are struggling to keep their downtowns afloat, Pontiac and a string of other Illinois communities scattered along the famed Route 66 are enjoying newfound popularity as foreign tourists roll in by rental car, motorcycle and bus.

The visitors come from Armenia and Ukraine with cameras around their necks, road maps in hand and money in their pockets. They tell locals they heard about the highway on international travel programs and read about it in guide books. Some catch an all-night flight to Chicago, skipping the downtown attractions to head out on the “Mother Road.”

“In Europe, it’s very much the epic American road trip,” said Sonny Dudes, a 31-year-old resident of the United Kingdom who pulled a rental car up to a visitor center housed in a restored Texaco gas station in Dwight on a recent afternoon. “It’s the novelty of a bygone era.”

And the homegrown tourism efforts are getting results. Shops in downtown Pontiac, for example, report an 8 percent increase in business over last year. The number of visitors has grown from 6,900 in 2008 to more than 15,000 so far this year, with representation from 84 countries, according to tourism officials.

The foreign interest gratifies boosters such as John Weiss, a resident of nearby Custer Park who has spent 15 years, he said, encouraging Route 66 communities to play up their ties to the road for their own survival. Weiss says he has sold more than 10,000 copies of his book, “Traveling the New, Historic Route 66 of Illinois,” many out of the trunk of his car.

“It’s so rewarding,” he said. “They’ll take pictures of our cornfields and our soybeans. They spend thousands of dollars just to come here — it’s their dream.”

Anyone familiar with the old Bobby Troup song knows that people get their kicks on Route 66, which ran 2,448 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles. The 85th anniversary of the roadway’s designation is Nov. 11.

The storied highway began as 300 miles of uninterrupted paved road in Illinois in 1926. By the early 1930s, the entire distance was paved, prompting business owners along the path to create kitschy gimmicks — giant statues, Indian trading posts and neon signs — to entice drivers to stop and spend money, Weiss said.

The construction of Interstate 55 in Illinois replaced the need for Route 66, and in 1977, the roadway was taken off official state maps. Communities began losing touch with its history. Former attractions turned into storage buildings. Once-bustling gas stations fell into disrepair.

Even so, Route 66 consistently drew throngs of visitors each year, and it remains one of the state’s top tourist attractions, said Jan Kostner, state travel director for Illinois’ Office of Tourism.

Last month, more than 50,000 people from 30 countries stopped in Springfield for the International Route 66 Mother Road Festival, she said.

Recognizing the untapped market, Joliet tourism officials in 2006 spent $150,000 in state grant money and city funding to create attractions. They added furniture from the 1950s and ’60s and Blues Brothers statues to the visitors center at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. A neon sign went up on the Rich & Creamy ice cream parlor along the route’s path.

Joliet leaders posted Route 66 signs, printed maps and renovated a parking lot near the Joliet Correctional Center — made famous in the movie “The Blues Brothers” — where tourists often stopped to take pictures.

“They’d been coming through here and we just didn’t have a system for guiding and directing it,” said Rebecca Barker, media and communications manager for Visit Joliet.

About the same time, Weiss and his late wife, Lenore, approached leaders in communities along the former Route 66 path, encouraging them to showcase historic places such as the two-cell jail in Gardner and the iconic Standard Oil Filling Station in Odell.

“All these little towns, they don’t have tourism directors, they don’t have big budgets,” Weiss said. “And yet thousands of people drove by every day.”

By October 2006, leaders from 12 communities from Joliet to Towanda agreed to do whatever they could — repaint, add audio narration, post new signs — to promote Route 66 attractions. Clustered along 90 miles of the highway, the towns coined a name designed to promote their offerings collectively: “The Red Carpet Corridor.”

Sep 192010
 

A trip down Route 66 consisting of (8) Micro-Cars started in Santa Monica and ended in downtown Chicago.
This is a small clip of one of the guys who was in the group. Most of the footage was shot in Dwight, Odell, and Pontiac IL.

I actually saw these guys coming into Bloomington, IL (from the south of course) and could not turn around in time to catch up with them – I wish I did!!

Click the link below to watch the video.
Micro-Cars on Route 66