By Joe Hadsall
Globe Features Editor
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin has been a part of the route ever since its creation. Our town is immortalized as a lyric about it in the Bobby Troup song.
But Joplin hasn't received much attention for being a stop along Route 66. Depictions of the highway focus on the desert and mountainous parts of the route in Arizona and New Mexico.
An international festival devoted to the route and its history will change that. The Route 66 International Festival will be held next week in downtown Joplin, Carthage, Galena and other stops along the historic route.
Patrick Tuttle, director of the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau, said area leaders seized an opportunity when they heard that the Tulsa-based Route 66 Alliance, organizers of the festival, didn't have a location picked at the end of its 2012 festival.
"When we heard that, we jumped on the bandwagon," Tuttle said. "And it was an easy sell, because Joplin sold itself. They are all about preservation, and where better (on the route) shows that?"
The festival features music, tours of local landmarks and businesses, special activities, a drive-in movie, cruise-in and more. The Grass Roots will headline a concert on Main Street, and other bands including City Limits, Jesse McEntire, The Road Crew and Walrus will perform.
Already sold out is a showing of "Cars" at Carthage's 66 Drive-In. The movie is a tribute to the love of the road and route-related memories, and one of its characters was inspired by a decorated tow truck in Galena.
Tuttle said people from around the world are coming, including people from Canada, Japan and Germany. The festival is meant to attract fans of the route who travel it as much as possible, and locals who don't know much about the Mother Road.
"We're attracting those people who are true 66 road warriors, who live it, breathe it and enjoy it all the time," Tuttle said. "I also hope a lot of our folks get out. A lot of our local people don't know very much about the preservation of the route. So there's an education component for new generations."
A centerpiece of the festival will be at Christman's Event Center at Fifth and Main. The building will host a large collection of displays, authors, collectors and more who tell the route's story well, Tuttle said.
It will be the biggest 66-related festival in Joplin since a 2002 music festival off of Highway FF, Tuttle said. He is hoping to see an attendance from 6,000 to 10,000 for Joplin events, and thousands more for events in Galena and Carthage.
Tuttle hopes that this can start a renewed effort of economic and tourism development, including the development of Broadway. Any future effort, however, depends on a review by the CVB's advisory board for starters."
"That is a piece of clay with a lot of value," Tuttle said. "With the history and architecture, there's a lot that could be done to enhance that strip of Route 66."
Schedule of events
Thursday, Aug. 1
Friday, Aug. 2
Saturday, Aug. 3