Route 66 Festival kicks off Thursday

By Leslie Radford: Freedom Newspapers

Every year, cities along “The Mother Road” embrace the rich history that built Route 66 with festivals focusing on the highway’s past and purpose. This year marks the fifth annual “Best Little Festival on Route 66” happening in Tucumcari on Thursday, Friday and Saturday hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.

Chamber officials said the festival is important not only to bring tourism to the area but to bring the community together with food and entertainment to celebrate a part of history.

Virginia Wright, executive director at the chamber, said Tucumcari chooses to celebrate Route 66’s past because the town is a mid-point along the old highway. She said the road brought outside traffic to the little town helping it grow into what it is today.

“There are other cities along Route 66 that have their own celebrations but we chose to do our own because of the important history Route 66 has to us (Tucumcari),” she said.
The National Historic Route 66 Federation explains on its Web site — www. national66.com — how “public road planners intended U.S. 66 to connect the main streets of rural and urban communities along its course for the most practical of reasons: Most small towns had no prior access to a major national thoroughfare.”

The site also says Route 66 symbolizes a “renewed spirit of optimism that pervaded the country after economic catastrophe and global war.”

With industrial growth and populations on the rise, Route 66 provided motorists a thoroughfare from one side of the continent to the other — a component Elmer Schuster said is important to the history of the highway.

“Route 66 is all about cars,” said Schuster, the coordinator for the Rotary Car Show that is becoming part of the tradition at the Tucumcari celebration. “Cars are part of everybody’s life.”

The car show, which receives about 50-80 cars every year, will display customs and classics at the Tucumcari Convention Center Saturday after the parade, Schuster said.
“We’re going to have a 1955 Hudson in the show this year,” he said. “This couple is driving all the way from a little town outside of Las Vegas, Nev., to be here.”

Schuster said he’d be displaying two cars, a 2006 Corvette and a 1967 Corvette. He said there will be numerous awards that will be given in various categories during the car show this weekend. Funds raised from the event will go to a local charity.

Aside from the display of automobiles, there will be a youth rodeo hosted by the Kiwanis Club, a Car Crush in which Tucumcari resident Charlie Causley and his monster truck will crush a couple of cars at the Convention Center on Saturday evening, Chamber of Commerce officials said.
“We try something new every year,” Wright said. “This year we will have bluegrass (music) and watermelons at Kvols Park (on Thursday) and the Fireballs will play at the dinner Friday night.”

Chamber officials said murals all over town are also a Route 66 attraction. Approximately 10 murals have been painted on sides of buildings in the last few years within the town as part of a Route 66 revival project.