Note: This is the first in a series of monthly articles about Route 66 and the upcoming International Route 66 Festival - and their impact on Kingman. Local Mother Road author and expert Jim Hinckley has agreed to provide the information for these articles.
KINGMAN - There are two things Jim Hinckley hopes to see happen as a result of the upcoming International Route 66 Festival that will take place here next summer.
First, he wants the festival to create a unified sense of community in Kingman as participants work together to prepare for the massive event, which will feature a variety of activities Aug. 13-17 for a crowd that could number 10,000 or more. Second, he wants the festival to be a catalyst for future development in a city that has struggled to remain solvent during the recent economic downturn.
"I want Kingman to be a place people want to live, raise families and open businesses," said Hinckley, author of numerous books about the history and mystery of the Mother Road. "Route 66 and the festival are the gateway to that, but we can't just focus on them. We need to develop and refine Kingman's identity. History and tourism are fickle foundations to build on economically, but they can definitely be used to get people here so they can see what Kingman has to offer."
Kingman was chosen Aug. 3 as the 2014 site for the Route 66 Alliance's annual festival during this year's event in Joplin, Mo. The theme for next year is "Kingman - Crossroads of the Past & Future."
The event's activities are divided into five categories - Spiels, the speeches and meetings; Wheels, fun with cars and bikes; Meals, the food and drink; Deals, the sales emphasis; and Surreal, the concerts, exhibits, tours and contests.
New attractions recently added to the festival lineup include two award-winning film producers showcasing their latest Route 66 productions. Also, Bob "Boze" Bell will debut his new Route 66 documentary about growing up on the Mother Road in Kingman, and there will be an exhibition of Route 66 artist Bob Waldmire's original artwork. And there will be a display of the oldest operational Studebaker electric car from 1902 and a presentation by an award-winning automotive author and historian about the history of alternative energy vehicles.
But what Kingman has to offer after the festival ends, said Hinckley, is even better. Those benefits are the beauty of the Hualapai Mountains, close proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, excellent bicycle trails, a wide variety of climates within 50 miles of the city, the nearby Havasupai Indian Reservation, a World War II museum and gunnery range, and a long history of celebrities visiting and films shot here. The city also boasts a direct, 36-hour Amtrak train route between Chicago and Kingman.
Hinckley is quick to acknowledge the importance of using Route 66 and the festival to whet visitors' appetites. Last month, he was one of 150 people worldwide attending an exclusive Route 66 summit in Anaheim, Calif., sponsored by World Monuments Fund, an organization dedicated to saving the world's treasured places. The meeting explored whether the highway could continue to function as a cultural, recreational and economic tool for the eight states the route passes through. Route 66 stretches 2,000 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif.
The summit followed on the publication of an economic impact study completed in 2012 detailing the importance of heritage tourism and historic preservation along Route 66 as a contributor to local, state and national economies. The study was done by Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, the U.S. National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and World Monuments Fund.
The study showed that tourists spend $38 million annually in communities along the Mother Road. Preservation programs and museums add about $94 million in annual investments, about 2,400 jobs are created annually and economic activities directly related to the route add about $127 million annually to the Gross Domestic Product. In other words, the study noted, the preservation of the highway and the revitalization of its communities are key to creating jobs and increasing economic growth.
"We can showcase all that we have available in and around Kingman at the festival," said Hinckley. "This area has some of the greatest undeveloped tourism possible on Route 66 today. We don't want to be myopic and focus only on Route 66. Kingman is too multi-faceted for that. But we can do so many things for the city because of this festival. It's really a win-win situation."
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