Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.
KINGMAN – Tom and Lisa Maletic are traveling the Southwest in their RV to escape the weather in Michigan and decided to spend a few days at the local KOA campground.
They had heard that Kingman was “picturesque” and, given a choice of museums to visit, Lisa chose the Route 66 Museum at the Powerhouse Visitor Center.
It was quite a surprise when they stepped into the visitor center shortly after 1 p.m. Tuesday and were greeted with confetti, a gift basket and cupcakes for everyone in celebration of being the 2 millionth visitor at the Powerhouse.
Mayor Monica Gates, visitor center staff and tourists from around the world were there to witness the momentous occasion.
“The last place we were at, we met a couple who said you’d love Kingman,” Lisa Maletic said.
Her husband added, “Going by RV, we learned there’s something to see everywhere. I asked Lisa what museum she wanted to see and she picked this one.”
That’s perfect because they received free admission to the Route 66 Museum, where Tom Maletic said he was excited to check out the “Grapes of Wrath” exhibit, John Steinbeck being his favorite author.
The Maletics were presented with a key to the city by Mayor Gates and a gift package worth $400, including dinner at one of the Fork in the Road restaurants owned by local businesswoman Krystal Burge. They also received tickets to Grand Canyon Resort and Grand Canyon Caverns.
The Powerhouse is the first Arizona visitor center coming from Las Vegas on U.S. 93 or from California on Interstate 40.
It opened in 1997 and welcomes about 100,000 visitors a year, though that number has been trending up, said Josh Noble, director of tourism for Kingman. Last year, the Powerhouse counted some 123,000 visitors from every state and 71 countries, he added.
“It’s great to see how many people travel through Kingman and stop at the Powerhouse and see what we have and learn about all our activities,” Gates said.
Noble said he collects data on visitors from the signature book at the visitor center, estimating that about 20 percent of visitors sign the book, with about 2.4 persons in each party.
The book asks only for guests’ name and place of origin, written in English, French, Chinese and Japanese. No email, phone number or address is requested, which makes guests more comfortable about signing, Noble said.
The Powerhouse did not celebrate its 1 millionth visitor, who would have come through sometime in 2009, Noble figures. He found guest books from 1998 to 2003 that had been lost in files and plugged those numbers into monthly tabulations to come up with his calculation for the 2 millionth visitor.
“We’re launching an app for our Route 66 passport because we had lots of international visitors, particularly German and French, that wanted the passport in hand and asked for an electronic version,” Noble said.