Australian 'Today' show crew descends upon Kingman
KINGMAN - There's no denying that Kingman has seen its fair share of tour groups passing through on that ribbon of asphalt that we've affectionately come to know as The Mother Road.
And this weekend, yet another group plans to stop by on its way across the country on Route 66, but unlike most other tour groups, this one has a film crew tagging along.
Professional Route 66 tour coordinator Dale Butel will be bringing a morning talk show host from his native Australia through town this Sunday as the latest stop on the television program's eight-day tour of the legendary highway, from its start in Chicago to its terminus in Los Angeles.
According to Chris Durkin, marketing director for the Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce and president of the Route 66 Association of Kingman, Butel will be bringing along Grant Denyer, the weatherman for the popular Australian morning show "Sunrise," a sort of outback analogue to the "Today Show" or "Good Morning America."
Voted "Australia's spunkiest male TV personality" in 2006 and the winner of that country's fourth season of "Dancing with the Stars," Denyer is currently filming his travels along Route 66 and regularly updating a weblog, dubbed "Grant's American Road Trip," accessible online at http://sunriseon7.tumblr.com/.
"The crew is basically doing a two-fold project," Durkin said. "They're taking about eight days to do the whole route, and their goal is to film segments to air every morning on this morning show, but they're also gathering video footage to put together a one-hour special."
Durkin noted that the tour's guide, Butel, has been leading tour groups through Kingman on Route 66 for several years through his company, Route 66 Tours.
"What he'll do is, he flies to the States ahead of his group, rents a car in Los Angeles and drives all over 66 to Chicago so he has the most recent intel on what's going on on the road," Durkin said. "Then he meets his group in Chicago - there's usually about 30 of them - he gets them all Mustang convertibles and then he takes them along the length of 66."
Durkin said he first got in touch with Butel during one of his tours through Kingman in 2009, and since then, the Route 66 Association has been working to coincide its events, such as the Chillin' on Beale Street block party, with Butel's visits to the area, suggesting further points of interest for his tour groups to check out. Durkin said the relationship has been mutually beneficial, with the tour groups getting to see more sights and the local economy receiving more of their tourist dollars.
"They like the reception in Kingman so much that he's turned it from an overnight stay to a three-day stay for his 2011 tours," Durkin said.
While he hopes to show off as much of Kingman as he can, Durkin said Butel has expressed specific interest in visiting the Mohave Museum of History and Arts. If that ends up being the case, it'd be the first time that museum president Shannon Rossiter can remember an international film crew coming through.
"We get film crews in there all the time, and we've had movies but no international talk shows," Rossiter said. "Tourists love the Western stuff. That's what it's all about, I guess."
Rossiter noted that the museum is already a major draw for international tourists coming through the area, particularly those from Western Europe, who make up as much as half the museum's overall patronage.
"A lot of Europeans know who Andy Devine is, which is really fascinating," he said. "And Route 66 is big-time in Europe. In fact, most German tourists will plan two years in advance."
He noted that the museum doesn't seem to get as many English or Australian tourists as it used to, but he's hopeful the television coverage might provide a bit of a boost in that area, though he mused most Route 66 enthusiasts will probably find their way to Kingman one way or another.
"It's like the railroad devotees," Rossiter said. "They'll come, but this will just boost it."