2016 Route 66 Miles of Possibility Conference in Illinois
My trip to Illinois for the 2016 Route 66 Miles of Possibility Conference in Bloomington /Normal ILL. was a wonderful adventure as well as a learning experience.
As always the best part of any Route 66 event is the people! Thursday Oct 20 we were treated to a meet & greet hot dog cook out! While the weather was chilly the smiles were bright and the hugs were warm! I was greeted by old friends and met some Facebook friends for the first time and added some new Route 66 friends.
I attended 8 sessions at the conference. There were several more I would have liked to attend, the choices were hard because all of the topics sounded interesting. I also attended the Mayor’s breakfast, which was very entertaining and interesting.
I chose the sessions with thought to what I could learn and bring back that would/could benefit the Association(s) and Texas Ivy. I will start with the last session I attend, not only was it one of my favorites because it deals with one of the most important needs of Route 66, but because it was also lead by Author Phyllis Grey, an Old Route 66 of Texas Association member, a forward thinking Route 66 supporter, and a great friend! Phyllis is the author of Route 66 In Search of Ghosts and Treasures and her session was: Passing the Route 66 Torch: Igniting the interest of Generations beyond the Boomers. Phyllis’ main message was the Education of future generations and HOW do we do that? Phyllis has made copies of her 1st edition of Route 66 In Search of Ghosts and Treasures available to all 8 Route 66 State Associations to be distributed in elementary schools along the Route. In partnership with Roaming Rich they will have “Get Your Kids on Route 66” website.
The first step in reaching the next generation is to make our Route 66 attractions and businesses FAMILY FRIENDLY!
Some of the suggestions that Phyllis made:
If possible offer some kind of simple children’s activity: Coloring books, Kid’s corner (like the U Drop Inn in Shamrock has), geocaching, being part of a Route 66 passport program, and/or have photo ops that kids will enjoy too.
During the discussion period there was also suggestions made for;
Starting a Kids Passport
Finding “Waldmire” program
Have children do interviews with business owners and tourist on Route 66
Have Route 66 drawing contests in each community that could be used to sponsor an event.
Have Route 66 activists visit schools and offer activities.
Also suggested, be dog friendly as many people do travel with pets.
Phyllis has donated 40 of her books to the Texas Association. My hope was to start with the Amarillo 66 schools and go out from here. However the two meetings I have had scheduled with AISD have both been postponed so it has not happened yet. If anyone in Vega, Adrian, McLean, Groom, or Shamrock has the opportunity to discuss putting a few books in your elementary school library please let me know! Once we get the books in the schools we might be able to coordinate with Phyllis to come do a few readings to the children!
The other sessions I attended were:
(1). Communicating Value: Route 66 and Heritage Tourism
(2). Place Matters: Historic Preservation as Economic Development
(3). Art & Inviting People: An Artists experience invigorating Route 66
(4). Event Planning for your Community
(5). Market and Promote Your Route 66 Community/Business/Attraction
(6). American Indians and Route 66: Stories Untold
(7). Public Art and the Walldogs
Here is some of what I took away from these sessions. I believe the sessions will be added to U-tube and if I receive a link to them I will share it with everyone.
Route 66 was likened to the Great Wall of China in that it has the longevity of life simple from existing but it is up to us to see that it continues to survive with some of it’s history intact.
Many towns have Route 66 murals, some towns have many 66 murals! I have heard two totally different views on murals. At last years conference one of our well respected international tour guides said that while Route 66 murals & museums are wonderful we can only look at so many before we are tired of them, and I think that is probable true. However with that shared, I love Route 66 murals and I wish Texas had more of them! Vega & Shamrock are both doing a wonderful job in the mural department. On the plus side of murals: (1) No two murals are the same (2) a mural can give some vitality to an otherwise empty and/or derelict building (3) a mural can teach/portray the history of a the community/town or business they are in/on. (4) A mural makes a good photo op for locals as well as tourists. And time wise the experience can be as fast or long as the tourist wants it to be.
Unique Authentic Experience is what Heritage Tourism and Route 66 have in common. And is what your business/attraction/community needs to offer to attract travelers & tourist. Keep your options open and have an open mind when it comes to historic buildings and their future- with those two things the possibilities for the future of every building is almost limitless.
A group of Artists in Bloomington have created a community space for artists & have First Friday Art Walks. Both are similar to what Sunset Center in Amarillo already does. It would be great if Historic Route 66 (6th Street) in Amarillo could do something similar. This could also be a model for all businesses in any town to all come together for an after normal hours shopping event once a month. Increase the community perception of the value of the “arts” so that there is economic impact (sales) generated as well as entertainment.
In community event planning a 3 way partnership of Public, Private & Non-profit is the most effective in bringing together the diverse variety of ideas, energy, leadership and money to the table.
What ever event needs:
~ Energy (people)
~ Experienced leaders
~ Workers (people)
~ Buy In (stake holders)
Every event should generate two things: Mission fulfillment and Revenue
To market your community/business/attraction the number 1 thing you need to know is “What is the tourist expecting?” A group of international tourists were polled ( I think it was in Pontiac ILL) and they said they wanted to See/Experience the “Real America” – Music, Cars, People, Rural America, sites and sounds of 66.
Remember that your destination is just ONE of MANY along the Route. How do you make yours Special? Different? Unique? Memorable?
Memorable is one of the most important. You need to make a positive impact and a shareable experience for everyone that visits, so that they will all promote it with family and friends. A photo op they share over social media so that everyone they know will want to come to your destinations and have that experience also. Social currency is just as valuable as money, maybe even more so.
Work on powerful emotional advertising. Illinois hosted a Route 66 Street Party on a Street In London. They painted a ILL. 66 Mural on a building in London then had a street party under the Mural with live music and refreshments. It generated more media coverage & social media buzz than could ever been bought. Illinois’ also sponsored an booth at the International Route 66 festival in Germany this year. These are goals that the Texas Association could strive to do.
Thanks to everyone for your continued support of the Old Route 66 Association of Texas!