KINGMAN - Kingman residents and businesses have a year to dust off their saddle shoes, glam up their retro rides and spruce up their storefronts before putting out the welcome mat for the Route 66 Alliance's annual Route 66 International Festival.
"It's an opportunity to showcase Kingman as more than just a stop on Route 66," said Mother Road historian Jim Hinckley. "It is an opportunity to come together as a community and say with pride, 'Welcome to our town.'"
The Alliance announced that Kingman was the winner of next year's Route 66 festival as this year's festival in Joplin, Mo. wound down Saturday evening. The annual event brings approximately 10,000 people to the event city.
Hinckley has been working with Josh Noble, the executive director of tourism for the Kingman Chamber of Commerce, and Steve Wagner from Re/Max on Hualapai Mountain Road for more than a year to bring the festival to Kingman.
"It started after I ran into Rick Freeland (one of the co-founders of the Route 66 Alliance) last year at the festival in Victorville, Calif.," Hinckley said.
Freeland told him that the location of the 2013 festival was already set, but the Alliance would be more than happy to consider Kingman for the 2014 festival. When Hinckley returned to Kingman, he met with Wagner and Nobel about the idea.
"The trick was, we had to show that there was community support and involvement with the idea," Hinckley said. "Wagner really picked up the ball and ran with that."
While Hinckley and Nobel worked on ideas for events and contacted local artists, authors and car enthusiasts, Wagner collected more than 30 letters of support from area businesses.
And then they had to wait for word from the Alliance. The official approval came at this weekend's festival in Joplin.
"We've already got a basic foundation for the festival. The theme is 'Kingman - Crossroads of the Past & Future," said Hinckley, who traveled Joplin this weekend.
The Kingman festival will run from Aug. 13-17 next year. It will include events at the Hualapai Mountain Resort; an exhibit of Route 66 authors, artists and collectors at the new events center in historic downtown Kingman; a film festival featuring movies that were filmed on Route 66, in Kingman or feature Andy Devine; a bowling tournament; a golf tournament; tours of Desert Diamond Distillery; activities in Hualapai Mountain Park; and car cruising at night.
It will also feature a special edition of Kingman's Chillin' on Beale car show with an exhibit of alternative energy vehicles. Hinckley and Wagner hope to get a very special guest for the display that night, a 1902 electric Studebaker owned by Don Robertson of Jerome, Ariz. The car still runs.
They also hope to install electric recharge stations along Route 66 for the festival and turn the historic highway into one of the first electric highways in the nation.
"We wanted to plan more things for people to do than they could do in one day," Wagner said. "We wanted them to say, 'There's too much going on. I have to come back tomorrow.' This is great exposure for Kingman."
Hinckley echoed those words from Joplin.
"There are people here from as far away as Australia and Tasmania. They came here just for this festival," he said. "The potential for Kingman is astounding."
With all of that international and national attention focused on Kingman, it's a great opportunity to sell Kingman as a great place to visit, and a wonderful place to start a business and raise a family, Wagner said.
"I see it as a catalyst for the transformation of Kingman," Hinckley said. "If we can just ignite the passion for a sense of community."
He pointed to Galena, Kan., which also sits on Route 66. The city's economy picked up after it started marketing its connection to the historic highway, Hinckley said.
The city is home to the International Harvester truck that was the basis for the character Mater in the Disney movie "Cars." People started moving to the area, sales tax revenues went up, new businesses started moving in, old businesses were revitalized and historic buildings were restored, he said. Kingman could do the same thing.
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