Route 66 Centennial 2026 is just around the corner

A celebration of the historic route from Chicago, Illinois to the Santa Monica Pier in California – Route 66 Centennial 2026 – is just around the corner. It’s a tremendous opportunity to bring national and international travelers who are looking for Americana and will be willing to pay for the experience and all of the things that will enhance it! Rod Reid, Chair of the Route 66 Centennial Commission concluded, “The Route 66 Centennial is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase the cultural significance of
this historic road.”

Though, President Biden announced the slate of members to the U.S. Route 66 Centennial Commission in December 2022, the press release inviting submissions for national, multi-state, or single-state activities, projects, events, or programs was just distributed in February of 2024. In their defense, no funds were appropriated. The program is funded through donations.

Realistically, destinations and tourism organizations have approximately 12-18 months to put plans together. (Events must be booked. Advertising should be in place well in advance.) Time is growing short!

Since December, I have been visiting sites along Route 66, first in and around Springfield, Missouri (A Journey Through Time: Exploring the Rich Tapestry of the Route 66 Car Museum, and Step Back in Time at Gary’s Gay Parita, a Route 66 Gem), and recently through Oklahoma, (The Blue Whale: A Love Story in Catoosa, Oklahoma) Texas and New Mexico. I’ve asked about celebrations and events for the centennial and am a bit surprised to find that plans are in infancy stages.

I would hope that the Route 66 Centennial “…will spark the largest block party in American history.” (Quote from jimhinckleysamerica.com)

I must admit that my enthusiasm for the historic road is heightened by my personal adventure along the road. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to take my time, visit with people, take photos, and write along the way. My day job, building websites, coaching clients, and creating newsletters and social media posts are requirements in order to pay the bills, but also slows me down and lets me take part in community along the way.

Many of the people who are part of businesses and attractions tell me that more that overseas travelers make up at least 90% of their paying customers between March or April through October. Winters are tough and many close and wait for more traffic in the spring.

A lot is riding on this event!

The roadway is barely navigable in places. I’m pretty sure the road through Oklahoma shakes vehicles and passengers so hard that traveling through the state on Route 66 could be deemed as a weight loss program! Recognition would aid in funding for repairs.

While talking to Brenda Hammit, owner of MidPoint Cafe and Route 66 Gift Shop, Adrian TX, she said, “I love what I do, but it’s hard. In six years, I have yet to make a profit.” When asked what she had heard about a celebration, she told me there was talk but she hadn’t heard anything definite. This lovely little 60s diner sits on the center of the historic route. It’s a destination, and yet Brenda doesn’t take home a paycheck.

The greeter at the New Mexico Welcome Center near San Jon said she attended a planning meeting. There are many ideas, but there are challenges, too. The Chamber Director position in nearby Tucumcari, the largest community for a good distance, is vacant.

Excitement is building and I found several organizations that are leaning into the centennial:

The U.S Route 66 Centennial Commission seeks to commemorate the Mother Road’s historic milestone and enhance its legacy through a variety of initiatives. “The Route 66 Centennial is not just a one-time celebration; it’s a platform for generating national pride in the road and expanding economic opportunities for the communities that it winds through,” said Jen Paul Schroer, Vice Chair of the Route 66 Centennial Commission. “We are calling on individuals, organizations, and communities to submit their innovative ideas, to make this event truly transformational. Individuals, organizations, and communities are encouraged to submit their concepts through the official submission portal on the Route 66 Centennial Commission’s website route66-centennial.com.

The Road Ahead Partnership Projects include activities, commemorations, and a series of programs focused on preservation, tourism promotion, research/education, and the economic development of Route 66. The mission of the Road Ahead Partnership is to revitalize and sustain Route 66 as a national icon and international destination, for the benefit of all Route 66 communities, travelers, and businesses/attractions, through collaborative partnerships focused on promotion, preservation, research & education, and economic development.

I took the liberty of listing organizations in each state that are involved in planning. Much of it is from route66-centennial.com because they are discoverable when using a search engine, but I couldn’t find the state tabs on the website. I’m also going to concentrate, for now, on the states that I am traveling through.

Missouri Route 66 Commission promises to plan and sponsor official Route 66 centennial events, programs, and activities in the state; encourage the development of programs designed to involve all citizens in activities that commemorate Route 66 centennial events 53 in the state; and to the best of the commission’s ability, make available to the public information on Route 66 centennial events happening throughout the state. To learn more about organizing around the Route 66 Centennial in Missouri, please connect with the Route 66 Association of Missouri or Missouri Division of Tourism. If you’re a visitor looking for Route 66 travel ideas in Missouri, please go to VisitMO.com.

Discover how The Sunflower State is celebrating Route 66 leading up to the main event in 2026 and how you can explore Route 66 in Kansas anytime. To learn more about organizing around the Route 66 Centennial in Kansas, please connect with Kansas Tourism. If you’re a visitor looking for Route 66 travel ideas in Kansas, please visit TravelKS.com.

Discover how The Sooner State is celebrating Route 66 leading up to the main event in 2026 and how you can explore Route 66 in Oklahoma anytime. To learn more about organizing around the Route 66 Centennial in Oklahoma, please connect with the Oklahoma Route 66 Centennial Commission or Travel Oklahoma. If you’re a visitor looking for Route 66 travel ideas in Oklahoma, please visit TravelOK.com.

Discover how The Lone Star State is celebrating Route 66 leading up to the main event in 2026 and how you can explore Route 66 in Texas anytime. To learn more about organizing around the Route 66 Centennial in Texas, please connect with the Texas Historical Commission or Travel Texas. If you’re a visitor looking for Route 66 travel ideas in Texas, please visit TravelTexas.com.

Around the Midwest is gearing up for the Centennial! There are several blog posts concerning Route 66 and you should check out the Route 66 T-shirt collection in our shop!

I’m sure I missed some noteworthy news about the Route 66 Centennial. Feel free to drop me a line!

Author: Margaret

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