Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Route ready to rock


June 26, 2019

Courtesy photo

The Rhythm Shakers of Los Angeles will be one of the Rockin' Route 66 headlining acts, performing at 10 p.m. Saturday at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

After a one-year hiatus, the sounds of old-school rock 'n' roll again will fill the air in Tucumcari this week with a new organizer and a rebranded event, Rockin' Route 66.

As with its Rockabilly on the Route predecessor, Rockin' Route 66 from Thursday through Sunday mostly will be based at the Tucumcari Convention Center, including ticketed events for six headlining acts - Phil Rocker of Colombia, "Outlaw Legend" Willie Heath Neal of Atlanta and Danny B Harvey and Annie Marie Lewis (niece of rock 'n' roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis) of Atlanta on Friday night and Slim and the Gems of Georgia, Kitty Rose and the Rattlers of Atlanta and Rhythm Shakers of Los Angeles on Saturday night.

The organizer placed other events around town, including the Odeon Theatre, VFW Post 2528, Elks Lodge, Watson's BBQ, Kix on 66, Cornerstone First Edition, Motel Safari, Blue Swallow Motel and New Mexico Route 66 Museum. (See schedule or rockinroute66.com for complete listing of events and more information.)

Brian Whitcomb, president of Georgia-based Grease Inc. magazine and Garage 71 Radio and organizer of Rockin' Route 66, also said there would be plenty of free events, including a kickoff party from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday at the convention center with shows by Jem Crossland, The Waymores, The Despots and Felix y Los Gatos.

"It's our way of saying 'thank you' to the city of Tucumcari and highlighting the locals and making sure they feel like they're 100 percent included," Whitcomb said of Thursday night's free event. "We just want to make it a fun, fun kickoff that's open to the public."

Whitcomb said the convention center will have only a half-dozen food booths so attendees can eat primarily in Tucumcari restaurants.

"I did not focus as much on the food this time as we will in the future," he said. "My goal is to circulate people through town to places like Kix, Cornerstone, Watson's and all the local favorites. I did not want to push the food; I want it to be more special long-term, like a Taste of New Mexico. That's going to take a lot more work."

Noting he's "very, very enthused" about the advance ticket sales, Whitcomb said Rockin' Route 66 recently stopped online transactions because it couldn't ensure tickets would arrive in the mail to buyers in time before the event. Instead, he said he'd sell tickets this week at the festival's temporary headquarters at an old gas station across the street from Motel Safari and at its table at the convention center starting at 9 a.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Whitcomb recommended festivalgoers not procrastinate in scoring tickets.

"I would definitely say that people need to come by the station and get their tickets before the out-of-towners come in to town," he said. "I anticipate by Thursday and Friday, it will be sold out for the whole weekend."

Whitcomb said the Black Collar Vendor Markette will include about 20 national and regional vendors at the convention center from 4 to 10 p.m. Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Among the other events at Rockin' Route 66:

• A cruise-in to the Odeon Theatre starting at noon for a special screening of "American Graffiti" at 2 p.m.. Saturday;

• A Ms. Rockin' Route 66 pin-up contest at the convention center's main stage at 2 p.m. Saturday;

• A Mommy and Me contest at the main stage at 1 p.m. Saturday;

• A hotrod and motorcycle show at the New Mexico Route 66 Museum from noon to 6 p.m. Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday;

• Shows from noon to 2 p.m. Friday at Watson's BBQ and Cornerstone and again from noon to 2 p.m.. Saturday at Watson's;

• "Martini Time" at Motel Safari's outdoor deck at 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday;

• After-party shows starting at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the VFW;

• S'mores made by the fire at the Blue Swallow Motel at 7 p.m. Friday;

• A tiki pool party from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Elks Lodge to wrap the festival.

Whitcomb said he already is thinking ahead to next year, including adding an event at the historic railroad depot, a motorcycle poker run and something involving vintage travel trailers.

"We're aiming for a 25-year shelf life, and you're going to see something new every time you come back," he said.

Organizers for Rockabilly on the Route discontinued it after its fifth year in 2017 and threatened a lawsuit against the city, alleging theft of intellectual property, if it tried to land a substitute event. The suit never materialized, and the city hired Whitcomb's company to launch Rockin' Route 66.

Whitcomb, who helped Rockabilly on the Route later in its run, said he loathed to criticize his forerunner.

"I'm not going to say anything bad about Rockabilly on the Route," he said. "They did a tremendous job. It was a great experience for us and, as years went on, we did more and more for them because we had the expertise."

Tucumcari Lodgers Tax Board Chairman Larry Smith said during the board's meeting this month organizers had hit "a lot of bumps" during the weeks leading up to the festival. Whitcomb didn't elaborate on those problems.

"We moved through those rough spots, and I will always find an opportunity out of it," Whitcomb said. "It's all good. Over time, everything will improve."

Whitcomb previously said he wanted to establish a permanent office in Tucumcari. Citing a proposed horse-racing track and casino that's inflated some property values in town, Whitcomb said he hasn't committed to anything but acknowledged the old gas station that will serve as a temporary festival headquarters is a "test run" for a possible future office.

"I don't want to get into all the details but there's no definitive timeframe," he said. "We want to make a hub out there (in Tucumcari), and we are a business. If we're out there as much as we were in the past year, it benefits all of us - the town and ourselves - to have a hub that's easier to work out of, connect with the town and the other regional sponsors and supporters."

Whitcomb said he became fond of Tucumcari a few years ago while helping Rockabilly on the Route, and he aims to help the town and Route 66 as well.

"The long-term goal of Rockin' Route 66 is truly to celebrate all Route 66 and everything it has to offer as well as drawing attention to Tucumcari," he said. "We going to continue to focus and grow, and Tucumcari is the heart of Route 66. We want Rockin' Route 66 to be that heartbeat, the drum. The town has a special magic that people need to see more of. There's other towns that have that magic - Shamrock, Texas, and Pontiac, Illinois - but we fell in love with Tucumcari. That's what led us to doing the festival."


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