Aug 152013
 




The Illinois 53 corridor plan calls for, among other things, creating attractions that would be “photo opportunities” luring Historic Route 66 travelers.

When you get right down to it, there are few day trip or weekend destination spots in Illinois other than Chicago, Galena and, maybe, Springfield.

But one untapped possibility, the magic key to the economic engine known as “tourism,” is right in Joliet’s back yard.
Some people refer to it as the “Mother Road.” Joliet folks know it better as Route 53, aka Historic Route 66.

Ten months ago, Ginkgo Planning & Design Inc. was hired to by Will County come up with a plan to turn the Illinois 53 corridor between Joliet and Braidwood into a magnet for day-trippers with money in their pockets and escapism on their minds.

What they’ve come up with was presented to the Joliet City Council’s Land Use Committee Wednesday, and is nearing the point at which it will be drafted into a blueprint for implementation, Ginkgo Principal Zerhat Zerin said.

It still lacks a name, but the working concept is “6 Stops on 66,” Zerin said.

“Just like we think of Door County (as a destination), we want to think of this as one place,” she said. “We have this challenge of how do we tie it all together?”

Essentially, the Orland Park firm, working with a steering committee of representatives from the communities along the route, cataloged the corridor’s “assets” and divided them into six areas.

The key to each is to establish a “photo opportunity” — something large, iconic or quirky that makes drivers want to stop and take their photo in front of it, Zerin said. Wilmington already has theirs with the Gemini Giant, the huge spaceman holding a silver rocket outside the now-closed Launching Pad Drive-In.

Think of a giant statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of letters spelling out “Mother Road” or maybe a dozen cars stacked on a spindle (similar to the now-gone Berwyn landmark) or set into the ground a la the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, Zerin said.

Joliet is the “North Gate” — the trip’s starting point and home to the Route 66 Visitors Center at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. Train overpasses under which Illinois 53 traffic drives could be painted to alert motorists that they are entering the historic corridor, Zerin said.

Other existing or potential attractions include Joliet’s Union Station and Brandon Lock and Dam, the Illinois & Michigan Canal and Wauponsee Glacial trails and a former quarry that could one day be used for zip-lining, cliff-climbing and other recreational uses, she said.

Another key destination would be Chicagoland Speedway, which draws as many as 150,000 visitors on race weekends but offers few reasons right now for people to stop otherwise, Zerin said. Speedway officials are very interested in working with the group to make it part of the Route 66 tour, she said.

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie in Wilmington and the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elwood are two sites that have the potential to draw huge tourist numbers but currently are little known to people outside of the area, Zerin said.

Midewin will be adding bison to their grounds next year, she said, and that will be a great lure. Another would be a proposed lookout tower incorporating an existing pedestrian bridge giving visitors a panoramic view of the hundreds of acres of restored prairie, Zerin said.

It’s estimated the tower would cost $5 million, and officials at the Illinois Department of Transportation have already been briefed on the idea, she said.

“They did not say no,” she said. “That’s a good thing.”

The bottom line is as many as 30,000 people a year, many from foreign countries, seek out Historic Route 66 and follow it from Chicago to California, Zerin said. The goal now is to capitalize and expand on that, she said.

Kendall Jackson, the city’s director of planning and economic development, sits on the group’s steering committee. Many things, such as improved signage and painting the railroad overpasses, can be done relatively easily and for not a lot of money, he said

“A lot of these things are already in the works,” Jackson said. “I think that the crucial thing about this plan is that it ties all of these assets all together. I think this is a plan that has a really good chance of being implemented and working.”

By Karen Sorenson – Plainfield Patch

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

Jan 052013
 





The Route 66 Association of Illinois will begin seeking nominations for the 2013 Hall of Fame. Nominations are accepted from January 1st, to February 28, 2013.


Nominations must include accurate documentation or declaration of the Nominee’s qualities, deeds, and history on Route 66 that merit this honor.

To qualify for election to the Hall of Fame, Nominees must have made significant contributions to the character or history of the Illinois portion of Route 66. The purpose of the Hall of Fame is to honor and commemorate those people, businesses, attractions and events that helped give Route 66 such special character and historical status in Illinois.

The Hall of Fame is located in Pontiac, Illinois, at the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum. The Hall of Fame and Museum is one of the most visited attractions on all of Route 66 in Illinois with visitors from all over the state as well as all over the world.

The committee invites anyone to submit a nomination. It must include a strong fact-based essay. It must include details about the nominee’s contributions to the character or history of the Illinois portion of Route 66. We encourage that photos, news clips, and other memorabilia accompany the essay but they are not required. A panel of historians and Hall of Fame members will judge all nominations.

Please submit nominations and all accompanying material to:
Route 66 Association of Illinois
ATTN: Hall of Fame Committee
110 West Howard Street
Pontiac, IL 61764

All nominations are kept for 3 years and presented to the committee for discussion. There is no limit on how many nominations can be submitted. The final decision regarding how many members are elected into the 2013 Class of the Hall of Fame is decided by the Hall of Fame committee. The Hall of Fame committee is comprised of 14 people who include current Hall of Fame members, Association historians, the Preservation Committee Chairman, and members who are appointed to the committee by the President based on their Route 66 knowledge.

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

Dec 142011
 



The ‘addition’ to the Route 66 Association of Illinois Museum…


This one was a huge story this year. Everyone knows the man, everyone knows his legend, and now everyone can see what made Bob Waldmire ‘tick’ with a collection of his personal belongings.

Since the addition of the different pieces, tourism numbers have been through the roof! The museum always did well – but this just made things, well, a little better! They are always good about posting (on their Facebook page) numbers of travelers coming into the museum and where they are from. I applaud the museum on their effoerts!

Below is the original stoy I posted about the addition of the Waldmire pieces:

Pontiac IL will dedicate its Red Carpet Corridor Festival to the memory of a Route 66 icon, the late Bob Waldmire.

The festival, Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, will include the painting of a mural designed by Waldmire, tours of the Waldmire school bus mobile home, a fine arts show and sale on the Livingston County Courthouse Square and a display of some of the classic cars that will be included in the new Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum and Resource Center.

Waldmire was born near Springfield in 1945 and died in December 2009. His passion for Route 66 began in 1962 when his parents took the entire family on a motoring trip to California via Route 66.

He later spent the rest of his life traveling along Route 66 in either his school bus mobile home or 1972 Volkswagen van. Both the van and the school bus are on display in Pontiac at the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Pontiac. During the Red Carpet Festival, the Waldmire school bus home will be opened to the public for the first time.

Waldmire supported his nomadic and eclectic lifestyle by painting and drawing for clients along Route 66, the “Mother Road.” His artwork is famous worldwide and Pontiac has one of his Route 66 road maps painted inside the Route 66 Museum.

During this year’s festival, Waldmire’s last commissioned mural project will be painted. He was asked to design and paint a mural for downtown Pontiac, but his illness prevented him from completing that task. Instead, he designed the mural and the public will be invited to come downtown during the festival to help paint the 66-foot map of the entirety of Route 66. The Diaz family, owners of Diaz Sign Art, will oversee the project.

In keeping with the festival’s theme of art and the Mother Road, the Livingston County Courthouse Square will be the scene of an art show and sale. Artists from around the Midwest, including some Walldogs, will display and sell original art.

For more information, contact Ellie Alexander, director of Pontiac Tourism, at 815-844-5847.

Make sure not only to visit them on their website by clicking HERE and following them on their Facebook page by clicking HERE – but PLEASE show your support by becoming a member and help supporting the associations work in preserving and promoting the route throughout the state of Illinois!

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.”

Apr 302011
 



The annual Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor on Saturday and May 8 includes Mother’s Day this year, a fitting honor to what was called “the Mother Road.”

One of America’s best celebrations of Route 66, the linear festival stretches 90 miles along Route 66 from Towanda to Joliet. A dozen towns along the way host all kinds of events, from garage sales to live bands.

Chenoa’s Red Carpet Festival will include live bands on Saturday afternoon, a carnival and food vendors. On Sunday, Anjanel Folkens will perform.

Lexington hosts a motorcycle show, a vintage car show and a tractor show, a quilt display, a concert by the Lexington High School band and chorus and the 2nd annual Amazing Bed Race. Add to that flea markets, garage sales, entertainment by an Elvis impersonator and a Hula-hoop contest. Food choices include Route 66 Root Beer Floats.

Pontiac’s festival is dedicated to the memory of Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire. To celebrate Waldmire’s life on the Mother Road, the city will be painting a 66-foot mural designed by Waldmire shortly before his death in 2009. Help paint the mural and receive a commemorative button. The project will be at the corner of Main and Madison streets in downtown Pontiac at 10 a.m. An art sale will be on the courthouse square. There also will be citywide garage and yard sales and a model train display at Evenglow Lodge. A free performance of the Route 66 Musical Revue will be at Chautauqua Park by the Vermillion Players.

Braidwood hosts a flea market, a karaoke/talent show, baked goods and kid’s stuff to do May 7. On Mother’s Day, a spa tent just for ladies will be offered.

Check out more and download a map by clicking HERE.

Copyright 2011 pantagraph.com

Feb 082011
 



Pontiac, Ill. — The design for a new mural in downtown Pontiac was approved by the City Council at its meeting Monday night.

The mural, which will be located on the west side of the Encore Shoppe building, was originally scheduled to be designed by the renowned Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire. However, Waldmire died in late 2009 before he could complete the mural. The mural just approved will now honor Waldmire and incorporate his likeness and his work into the overall design.

The mural will be finished and dedicated during the the annual Red Carpet Corridor celebration on Mother’s Day weekend, May 6-8 2011.

Ellie Alexander of the city’s Tourism Bureau asked the council’s persmission to commission a mural depicting the last art work of Waldmire. Waldmire’s family donated his two vehicles, a bus which is located behind the Route 66 museum, and a Volkswagen van, located inside the museum.

The 66-foot-long mural will be made up of 16 panels, most 8-feet-high, except the three last panels to the south, which will be several feet higher.

Diaz Sign Art was given $15,000 to complete the project. Like the WallDog murals of 2009, Pontiac residents and area artists will be invited to paint some of the mural as well.

Copyright 2011 Pontiac Daily Leader.

Jan 312011
 

Pontiac IL will dedicate its Red Carpet Corridor Festival to the memory of a Route 66 icon, the late Bob Waldmire.

The festival, Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, will include the painting of a mural designed by Waldmire, tours of the Waldmire school bus mobile home, a fine arts show and sale on the Livingston County Courthouse Square and a display of some of the classic cars that will be included in the new Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum and Resource Center.

Waldmire was born near Springfield in 1945 and died in December 2009. His passion for Route 66 began in 1962 when his parents took the entire family on a motoring trip to California via Route 66.

He later spent the rest of his life traveling along Route 66 in either his school bus mobile home or 1972 Volkswagen van. Both the van and the school bus are on display in Pontiac at the Route 66 Association of Illinois Hall of Fame and Museum in downtown Pontiac. During the Red Carpet Festival, the Waldmire school bus home will be opened to the public for the first time.

Waldmire supported his nomadic and eclectic lifestyle by painting and drawing for clients along Route 66, the “Mother Road.” His artwork is famous worldwide and Pontiac has one of his Route 66 road maps painted inside the Route 66 Museum.

During this year’s festival, Waldmire’s last commissioned mural project will be painted. He was asked to design and paint a mural for downtown Pontiac, but his illness prevented him from completing that task. Instead, he designed the mural and the public will be invited to come downtown during the festival to help paint the 66-foot map of the entirety of Route 66. The Diaz family, owners of Diaz Sign Art, will oversee the project.

In keeping with the festival’s theme of art and the Mother Road, the Livingston County Courthouse Square will be the scene of an art show and sale. Artists from around the Midwest, including some Walldogs, will display and sell original art.

For more information, contact Ellie Alexander, director of Pontiac Tourism, at 815-844-5847.

Jan 062011
 

The Route 66 Association of Illinois – Winter Quarterly Meeting on Sun. January 16, 2011

The Illinois folks are having their first association meeting of 2011 and if you are ANYWHERE near Pontiac, stop in and see what these folks d0 to preserve Route 66 throughout Illinois.

I call them ‘the best of the best’ when it comes to preservation, tours, awards, and information of all the other states along the route.

Stop in and you will see why!

Meeting informtion:

Date: Sunday, January 16, 2011 – 10:00am – 5:00pm
Winter Quarterly Meeting – Pontiac, IL

10:00 AM – Board Meeting
12:00 PM – Lunch Break (on your own)
1:00 PM – General Meeting
Motor Tour Meeting follows General Meeting
Pontiac City Hall – 115 W. Howard St., Pontiac