Miner Editorial | New Route 66 Fest is a welcome addition to our community’s slate of events

With the advent of the new Kingman 66 Fest, the city seems to be zeroing in on what makes it special – Historic U.S. Route 66.

For years, the city’s signature event has been Andy Devine Days, named after an actor with Kingman ties who was well-know in his day, but today, not so much. A transplant or visitor would likely ask: “Andy who?”

Route 66 – otherwise known as the Mother Road – is a different story.

Everyone has heard of U.S. Route 66. It ran uninterrupted in its day from Chicago to Santa Monica, California, and was one of the primary ways West in the early days of the automobile before the advent of interstate highways.

Route 66 has been immortalized by Nobel Prize author John Steinbeck in Grapes of Wrath as the path from the dust bowl to California, and by local author Jim Hinckley as a great place to explore.

It’s been further popularized by a classic early ‘60s television show – Route 66 – where a couple of do-gooders traveled the route helping those in need. That show can still be found today.

Route 66 is even up for an American Society of Civil Engineers award for being an engineering marvel for the way it traverses the Black Mountains and connects Kingman with Topock with curves and switchbacks and steep inclines that forced early migrants to hire drivers to take them over the pass. It’s a white-knuckle drive to this day.

Mohave County maintains an expansive section of the old route, and is well-positioned to capitalize from the thousands of books and magazine articles, and enduring interest in a route steeped in nostalgia.

So it’s just the kind of event – if done right – to drive traffic to Kingman, gives businesses a boost, and expose visitors to an area that has become both a tourist and retirement destination.

Not that the event has come without controversy, primarily due to the location.

It’s being held at Lewis Kingman Park, 2201 Andy Devine Ave., derisively referred to as the “dog park” by detractors who would rather see the event held downtown at Locomotive and Metcalfe parks. Those folks say the new festival is poorly positioned to benefit local brick-and-mortar merchants because the park is isolated.

There’s something to be said for their argument. And while the hope is that visitors to the festival will also venture downtown for a look-see, dinner and to spend some money, there are no guarantees.

The city should always be sure to take the pulse of merchants before scheduling and locating new events. And downtown merchants should consider taking part by being a vendor at the event, which is expected to attract 2,000 to 4,000 people.

As city tourism and development officials explain it, the festival is a work in progress, the first of what will hopefully be many, and a trial balloon for the 100th anniversary of the Mother Road in 2026. Who knows where the event will eventually settle?

You can also make an argument that Lewis Kingman Park is an appropriate venue.

The location is spacious, green and shady – an oasis. It sits right on Route 66. And there’s even a historical connection – it once served as one of the primary rest stops on the Mother Road, visited by many 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s-era travelers.

The free, two-day festival will unfold Friday and Saturday, Nov. 5-6. Hours are 2-10 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

There will be a beer garden, local vendors, bands, food, and a car and motorcycle show. There will also be four escape rooms, a zipline and a trackless train – something new for local youths and the young-at-heart.

So even if it doesn’t become a big tourist draw, it will be another nice event in a community known for them; a place to get out of the house after a long, hot summer and visit with the neighbors. Give it a try.

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