Guest Column: Route 66 festival gives Kingman a big opportunity

I am not writing as an official spokesman for the Route 66 International Festival, as a supporter for the organizers of that event, or to cast blame.

Instead, I want to dispel rumors, provide assurance of the festival's viability and alleviate misunderstandings.

From inception, the development of the festival hinged on the ideal that in the process of transforming a community into a destination for visitors, you make it a place people want to live, to open businesses and to raise families. To accomplish this, you must first develop a unified sense of community direction.

I will be the first to admit that utilizing festival development to create a unified sense of purpose hasn't been very successful. However, to that I must add that since the original organizers abandoned the project in mid-January, the cooperative partnership developed between business owners, members of the Chamber of Commerce, Grand Canyon West Resort and city officials is, in my opinion, unprecedented.

Yes, there are detractors. Yes, some are involved with the Chamber of Commerce, tourism development and the business community. Yes, some of their concerns are valid and some are based on the evaluation of short-term benefits derived from previous festivals.

With that said, let me provide a few festival updates.

A New Zealand-based company is promoting the fact that their summer tour includes two days at the festival. The German Route 66 Association is organizing a motorcycle tour from Chicago to Kingman for the festival.

Representatives from the Dutch Route 66 Route 66 Association will be in attendance. Likewise with members of the Czech Route 66 Association.

Invitations have been sent to hundreds of car clubs. Bob "Boze" Bell is working with the tourism office to develop an interactive Route 66 exhibit. The archivist at Northern Arizona University is working with the Mohave Museum of History and Arts director on another project.

An unprecedented conference featuring representatives from numerous Route 66 associations, historians, leaders in the development of electric vehicle infrastructure, and celebrities in the Route 66 community will be included in the slate of activities.

TNT Auto Center is hosting a VW enthusiast's event as well as an exhibit of work by acclaimed artist Bob Waldmire.

The Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation, in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce, is working to create the world's largest exhibition of historically significant electric vehicles.

The city of Holbrook is developing a Route 66-themed event for the weekend before the festival and is looking to cross-promote. Articles about the festival have been published by the Associated Press and in a Toronto newspaper, and press releases are appearing on international Route 66 association websites.

A wide array of serious issues ranging from coordination to sponsorship acquisition developed with the transition in leadership in January. As a result, the festival may not be the event initially envisioned, but it will have a tremendous impact on this city as well as the Route 66 community.

The size of the impact on the community and the long-term benefits that result from the festival are almost impossible to predict. However, if we use the event to develop a unified sense of purpose and direction, it will be a success.

If we use this festival as a means of seeing Kingman as a place so special people will travel from the four corners of the Earth to visit, it will be a success.