Kicks, some missed, on 66


We made it to the International Route 66 Festival Friday night for a couple of hours, and again this afternoon from 1 to about 8. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The street music was consistently good, and the organizers were wise to alternate stages and not allow simultaneous concerts. Nothing ear-assaulting, all family-friendly stuff.

  • Pawnee Bill (actually the Pawnee County Assessor, I was told) was out on Brady Street offering kids rides on his horse. Katherine was in little girl heaven, leaning forward, gripping the saddle horn, and beaming. Joe enjoyed his ride, too. The Pawnee Bill Wild West Show, by the way, will be performed June 19th & 26th west of the town of Pawnee.

  • Nice to see new developments in Brady Village, like the glassblowing studio and Caz's new restaurant.

  • The open houses today were fun -- we went up to the roof of the Tribune Building and looked in a couple of the available units; looked around the restored first floor and mezzanine of the Mayo Hotel; and had a tour of Boston Avenue Methodist Church. The Boston Avenue Church tour was very well organized and presented, with a guide to lead us around to about eight different stations, and a guide at each station to explain the history and symbolism of the art work and architectural details. At the first station they helpfully had photos of two Oklahoma wildflowers -- the tritoma and coreopsis -- which appears in stylized versions throughout the church. Katherine quickly became a skilled coreopsis-spotter and discovered that coreopsis is fun to say. At the eight station we got the straight scoop about who designed Boston Avenue Church, and how she got the job. The building is a dazzling work of art.

  • It was nice to see that full-time Brady Village businesses were allowed to make a buck. I can remember Mayfests in the past where they may as well have placed a dropcloth over downtown for all the good it did the year-round businesses.

  • The kids enjoyed the "Kids Korner" activities, especially the reptiles exhibit Friday evening.

  • Lots of friendly and helpful volunteers. One exhibitor told us how much he appreciated that Tulsa had volunteers available to man his booth to give him 20 minutes to stretch his legs and get a bite to eat. He also said the festival organizers worked with exhibitors to get them their preferred locations as much as possible.

But what, you may ask, made this event different from all the other street festivals we see through the course of a year. Yes, there were car tours of the highway and a 66 theme, but that could have been done for a purely local celebration of the old road (which isn't a bad idea). What is the essence of the International Festival, which will go with the festival to another city next year, something Tulsans will only have readily accessible for these few days?

The Expo.

We discovered it belatedly. It is not given a place of honor on the website or in the program, but if you are a Route 66 or old highway enthusiast, this is where you need to be.

Five collectors were there with albums of postcards and maps and room keys and posters. Sadly most were not for sale, but was able to buy a couple of Borden Cafeteria postcards, which I will scan and post here sometime in the future. One collector, from Arizona, had road atlases from the '20s and '30s, and a 1950 map of Tulsa from the Triangle Company. The postcard collections were a chance to look back at places that are gone and signs that have been changed -- the Downtown Best Western Motel, actually on the north side of 11th at Columbia; the Town and Country near the turnpike gate; the Flamingo Motel -- the motel is there but the neon flamingo is gone; the Park Plaza Courts, torn down in the '80s. Since they aren't willing to part with them, I wish these collectors would scan and post these cards on the web.

There are some wonderful new books out, and the authors were there to sell and sign copies.

  • Bob Moore and Rich Cunningham have published an atlas and guidebook aimed at setting out the best way to drive the old road (without having, as they say in the foreword, a four-wheel drive, a lawyer, and two months to drive the road). They use GPS data, odometer settings, and high resolution topographical maps to help guide the would-be 66 cruiser.

  • Scott Piotrowski has compiled the many routes 66 has taken through Los Angeles County in Finding the End of the Mother Road (website should up shortly).

  • Shellee Graham has a new book about the late lamented Coral Court Motel near St. Louis and a book of postcards from the highway.

  • Russell Olsen has just published Route 66 Lost and Found a book of paired images -- an old postcard image or photograph, and a photo he took recently of the same place from the same vantage point. The Shady Rest Court on Southwest Boulevard, just north of downtown Red Fork, is one of his subjects. (Still there, believe it or not, but without a sign.) His website offers the book and individual photos for sale.

  • Ghost Town Press in Arcadia (home of the Round Barn) has published Oklahoma Route 66, a big book of maps and photos, including some pictures taken where law-abiding angels fear to tread. They've got a picture of one of Max Meyer's gas stations and one of his tourist cabins, too.

The entrance to the expo features Cyrus Avery's map of the national highway system, highlighting roads passing through Oklahoma, and a couple of his letters relating to the struggle to get a good number for the diagonal route from Chicago to LA. Next to those were some wonderful sketches of late '30s Tulsa by Paul Corrubia (more here) -- I had never seen these before.

A group called Friends of the Mother Road had a table. This group restores historic signs and other artifacts along Route 66. They were selling a children's book about the highway to raise money for their work.

Each of the state Route 66 associations had a booth, with brochures and things to give away. I note that the site of Times Beach, Missouri, once notorious for dioxin contaminiation, has been rehabilitated and has been developed as Route 66 State Park. (Here's another view -- Times Beach should be named a national monument to chemophobia.)

By the time we got to the Expo -- nearly 5 this afternoon, because we wanted to do the building tours before they closed at 4 -- there were only two hours left. The collectors were packing up their things and it looked like they weren't planning to come back on Sunday. The other booths didn't seem to be going anywhere, so hopefully they will still be around Sunday, but there's nothing in the festival website to indicate if that's the case.

One other downside -- all the booths appeared to be cash only. I didn't notice any credit card equipment.

A number of things fell through the cracks, which is to be expected. In another entry, I'll relay some thoughts on what could have been better.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 13, 2004 12:33 AM.

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