The new PBS documentary, “The Neon Road in New Mexico”, will be shown on the big screen of the Thunderbird Theater at 2:00 PM Saturday at the Tucumcari Route 66 Festival, in the Convention Center.
“This will be a rare opportunity to view the film on a large screen, (the 10 by 14 foot Thunderbird Theater screen provided by the New Mexico Route 66 Association). The film has recently been nominated for the prestigious Rocky Mountain Emmy Award,” said Route 66 Association President Johnnie Meier. According to Meier, the film chronicles the restoration of 10 classic Neon Signs on New Mexico’s Historic Route 66. The restoration project, which is the cover story in the March issue of New Mexico Magazine, was led by the New Mexico Route 66 Association with funding provided by the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Office through the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division.
The 26-minute film, shot over a period of one year, features classic neon signs restored in Tucumcari, Santa Rosa, Moriarty, Albuquerque, Grants and Gallup. Three signs were restored in Tucumcari by Clovis Signs.
The three signs restored are the TeePee Curio Shop, the revolving sombrero sign at the La Cita Restaurant, and the bathing beauty sign at the Paradise Motel. The restoration of the TeePee Curio shop sign is featured and includes an extensive interview with curio shop owner Mike Callens.
Collins tells about his experiences repainting the sign and the reaction in Tucumcari. Collins talks about the first night the restored sign was switched on. “It literally stopped traffic!” said Collins. The documentary features a soundtrack by the legendary Fireballs, the musical headliner at Saturday night’s Rock ‘n Roll Revue at the Tucumcari High School Auditorium.
According to Meier, “The Fireball’s early hits, like Bulldog and Torquay, were classic rocking guitar instrumentals that complemented beautifully the retro neon images of the documentary.” George Tomsco, leader of the Fireballs, agreed to pledge the Fireball’s song catalog to the documentary. The Fireball’s music has been used in Hollywood films such as Forrest Gump, Mermaids, Congo, and From Dusk til Dawn.
“The addition of the Fireball’s music creates a bounce to the documentary,” said Meier, “and New Mexicans can take pride that the music is from a home-grown legend.”
New Mexico Route 66 Association President said, “This documentary tells the wonderful story of the mom and pop business owners who have continued the traditions and maintained the culture that is Route 66. It also tells the story of the neon artists who committed to the restoration of these classic signs and did so with pride. The six sign companies that worked on this project are family owned businesses that trace the founding of the businesses to their fathers and grandfathers. Restoring these signs were performed as a tribute to their fathers and grandfathers.”
For the first time anywhere, a DVD of the documentary will go an sale to the public. The DVD will sell for ten dollars and will be available at the Convention Center.