Popularity of Route 66 should be fully leveraged

Popularity of Route 66 should be fully leveraged

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The Issue: An important asset runs the length of Macoupin County.

Our View: Towns in the county should plan to take full advantage of Route 66 now and in the future.


There’s a belief that a dream is a dream until you write it down, then it becomes a goal. It’s one of those mantras similar to the notion that every journey begins with a single step. A journey that many of us here in Macoupin County take for granted is the meandering ribbon of asphalt most of us refer to as Route 4, but to the rest of the world is known as Route 66.

The original Route 66 ran north through the communities of Macoupin County from 1926-1930, which means we’re not too many years away from the Mother Road’s 100th anniversary. While that might be a ho-hum event for many in these parts, according to Bill Kelly, executive director from Route 66 Scenic Byway, the anniversary will be a very big deal for fans of what is, perhaps, the most famous road in the world. Staunton, Sawyerville, Benld, Gillespie, Carlinville, Nilwood, Girard and Virden are all communities which can lay claim to part of America’s Main Street.

While there are thousands who travel Route 66 every year, the 100th anniversary is bound to draw repeat travelers, as well as thousands of new ones, not only from this country, but from around the world. It will be a very important milestone, not only for the famous route, but for Macoupin County, especially if the communities along the route find ways to take advantage of the road’s popularity and find ways to attract attention and get those tourists to stop.

With all the attention Route 66 gets from tourists seeking a bit of American nostalgia, one would think all the communities along the route would be thriving. Unfortunately, that is simply not the case. Some towns are doing better than others. It would be a shame if the opportunity to capitalize on the 100th anniversary of the Mother Road was missed.

The beauty of this sort of opportunity is a town doesn’t really need to have a bunch of historic buildings to see. People will stop of they see something interesting — a restful park, a charming place to eat or an eye-catching store all provide ample reasons for a car load of sightseers to pull over and stay awhile.

Those who travel Route 66 are searching for reasons to stop and, according to Kelly, they want people to know they’ve been here, so they look for photo opportunities and places to buy souvenirs. None of this can be done at the last minute. It takes research, planning and commitment. The fact is, the sooner establishments start selling souvenirs, the better off we’ll be. Route 66 is a tourism magnet, not just during anniversary years, but every year.

Route 66 begins in California and travels through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Illinois. There are hundreds of communities along the route, some leveraging the popularity of the Mother Road more than others. We hope the Macoupin County communities along Route 66 form committees that will take a good hard look at some of the things communities that have successfully marketed their ties to Route 66 have done. While it’s certain each town is different, we are sure there are communities that will inspire new ideas from which the towns of Macoupin County can benefit.

Sure, the 100th anniversary of Route 66 is nine years away. That’s a long time, but it takes a long time to research, plan and fundraise. We encourage Macoupin County towns along the Route 66 corridor to take better advantage of their ties to this legendary roadway and to be prepared when it hits the century mark.