This past Friday to Sunday, August 12th through the 14th, vintage vehicles of all kinds lined the streets of downtown Springfield as we celebrated 90 years of Route 66. The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival pays homage to the highway that originally led from Chicago, IL to Santa Monica, CA and has been immortalized in many a movie, song, and other forms of art.
Before we head into my coverage of the festival itself, let’s take a quick trip down History Boulevard and learn a bit about our historic Route 66.
Brushing up Our “Route 66” History
Route 66 or the Main Street of America, as it is also called, was assigned its famous name here in Springfield on April 30, 1926. It was signed into law in 1927 as one of the original highways of the United States. Route 66 became one of the major roads for those who migrated west, passing through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona on their way to sunny California. The infamous route also helped prosper the communities it passed through and who later repaid the highway by fighting to keep it alive as the threat expansion, jeopardized its existence. Sadly, the official U.S. Route 66 was removed from the US map in 1985 due to the new Interstate Highway System. However, there is no need to fret as the love and admiration for the memorable road have not diminished over the years. Portions of the road in Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico and Arizona have been labeled as “Historic Route 66” and it has started popping up on maps once again!
Route 66 Festival in Springfield, Mo
Fast forward to present day. It’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon in downtown Springfield. While the sun is out, humidity has disappeared for the day the weather is perfect for strolling along the streets viewing the multitude of cars and trucks that sit in pristine condition along the sidewalk.
Being the costume fanatic that I am, I could not help but grab my vintage inspired dress, full petticoat, and cherry red lipstick and channel the fashion of my dream era. As I walked, along with my sister and our friend, music by the Hughes Brothers played in the background. Food vendors offered a variety of tasty treats, ranging from traditional shaved ice to tacos, BBQ sandwiches and much more. Adults and children alike crowded the streets to view the shining, shimmering automobiles as the proud car owners sat close by beaming with pride. As I posed for a picture by one car in particular, the owner came up and handed me a yellow cloth. “Why don’t you wipe it down a bit,” he said. I was happy to do so.
We continued to walk and enjoy the sights and sounds. Further down the street on Park Central East, the crowd began to change and take on an edgier feel. We had entered Motorcycle Village. Had my father been along with us, we would have been there for hours, however, without him, we simply strolled along, enjoying the sun as it glistened off of the spotless black paint.
After perusing the bikes, we made our way back to Park Central Square. We stopped in the Exhibition Hall where vendors were set up offering information on Route 66, local must see’s, and even memorabilia. As our time at the festival was drawing to a close I had to make a final photo stop in front of the Fox Theater. We entered the lobby and were greeted by a gust of cool air conditioning. We looked around in the lobby at the artifacts they currently had displayed- crafts from the early 1900s! I hope to return soon to be able to explore more.
We finished our mini blast to the past by standing atop the Boonville Avenue hill, I looked down at the buildings that lined the road, the people walking along the sidewalks, and cars, both new age and vintage, as two worlds, past and present, intermingled. Standing there I could not help but feel a sense of pride at being a resident of Springfield and part of the great Route 66 legacy.
If you didn’t get a chance to go this year, I highly recommend taking some time off next year to check out the sights and sounds – what a fantastic way to spend a Saturday in our beloved Springfield!