The global Route 66 organization
The National Historic Route 66 Federation can justly be credited with expanding Route 66 beyond the efforts of a few. This was accomplished by promoting the highway around the world, establishing a global Route 66 association and producing 3 to 4 day events along 66 that featured artists, musicians and collectors, and the John Steinbeck Awards evening that honored those working to restore the Route.
The roots of the Federation go back to October of 1964, when David Knudson drove from Chicago to California on Route 66. Fresh out of college, he had pocket change, plenty of dreams and no job. He stayed in California and eventually built a business in Los Angeles. But, he never forgot his trip out Route 66 with all the “fancy” motor courts, “exotic” trading posts and the aroma of sweet smoke from the pit barbecues. He couldn’t afford to stop at any of them on his way out, but he vowed one day, he’d travel down Route 66 again and buy some Indian moccasins, sample the great – smelling barbecue and stay in a few places with clean sheets.
In August of ‘94, his chance came. His wife, Mary Lou and he were in Chicago and decided to drive back to California along Route 66. But, they couldn’t find it. The famous road wasn’t on any maps and there were no “66” road signs. The old road had been bypassed by an interstate highway over 20 years before stranding many of the once-thriving businesses and towns. Deserted structures stood only as silent reminders of the days of “America’s Glory Road”.
By the time David and Mary Lou arrived home, they decided to sell their business interests and devote their time to trying to save as much as possible of the historic road before it was completely gone. The Federation was born.
The Federation’s mission
Today, the National Historic Route 66 Federation is the worldwide, nonprofit organization dedicated to directing the public’s attention to the importance of U. S. Highway Route 66 in America’s cultural heritage and acquiring the federal, state and private support necessary to preserve the historic landmarks and revitalize the economies of communities along the entire 2,400-mile stretch of road.
The Federation accomplishes these goals through public education, advocacy and membership activities. Public outreach strategies include publication of the quarterly magazine Federation News, the Adopt-A-Hundred Preservation Program, a worldwide web site, serving on the National Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide, the EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers, special events and assistance to the media, authors, learning institutions and production companies.
Spearheaded the National Route 66 Preservation Bill
In 1999, the National Route 66 Preservation Bill was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. The act provides $10 million in matching fund grants to individuals, corporations and communities for the purpose of preserving or restoring historic properties along the legendary route. The Federation spearheaded this bill for over four years and is now working with the The National Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program to issue these grants.
The Federation’s Adopt-A-Hundred Program utilizes over 20 volunteer members who take responsibility for 100 mile stretches of the route. They tour their stretches at least twice a year looking for possible preservation problems and if found, report them to the Federation for follow up. Every other year, those members who have adopted sections in the Adopt-A-Hundred Program travel their sections and review the dining and lodging establishments along them.
Each facility is evaluated on 10 different criteria. Their detailed reports are then compiled and entered into the latest edition of the Route 66 Dining and Lodging Guide which is published by the Federation. The purpose of the guide is to encourage people to explore the route and to help them find dining and lodging places they can afford and are unique. It emphasizes the vintage establishments so travelers can make the most of their historic roadside Americana experience.
The EZ66 GUIDE For Travelers is a joint project between the Federation and author/artist Jerry McClanahan. As the title implies, its purpose is to make traveling the many unsigned, often confusing alignments of the Route as easy as possible. Each of these alignments are historic and offer their own unique glimpse into their regions.
Working with film, radio and television production companies, and reporters and authors
Every year, numerous film, radio and television production companies, and reporters and authors from around the world prepare pieces about Route 66. Typically, they will contact the Federation for assistance and guidance. Each usually need help in finding appropriate people, sources and locations. Often the work is extensive, but it is a valuable tool in educating people about the Route around the world.