Looking back at Joplin

I had been looking forward to the International Route 66 Festival in Joplin MO for months, and I wasn't disappointed. The big event was held August 1-3 in Joplin and neighboring 66 communities Carthage MO and Galena KS. Since I didn't have my blog started at that time, I'm going to make up for lost time and post some photos from that weekend.

The kickoff on Thursday evening was a showing of the hugely popular movie "Cars" at the Route 66 Drive In at Carthage MO. Michael Wallis, voice of the Sheriff, was there to sign autographs. There was a long wait along the road to even enter the drive in and it was packed to capacity. Excitement was contagious as one person after another snapped photos from cars or darted from them to get a special shot. My evening was even more fun as good friends Josh and Wendy Friedrich from Springfield IL graciously invited me along. It was especially fun sharing the movie and good times with their little Route 66 fans, Charlie and Lizzie. Thanks, Friedrich family.

Friday dawned hot and muggy. We authors, photographers, collectors, and Route 66 association and tourism people were hosted in the Christman Event Center on the corner of South Main/Route 66 and 5th Street. The food and merchandise vendors were lined up out on the street. We had air-conditioning, tables set up and waiting for us, food brought to us, and were generally treated like honored guests. The very-warm and very-tired vendors outdoors did have thousands crossing their path. Inside we did have big crowds especially on Saturday. It was great fun to be set up with my books between fellow authors Joe Sonderman and Jim Hinckley.

Left to right, Jim Hinckley, Josh Friedrich, me, and Joe Sonderman.

Here I am with Route 66 icon Michael Wallis.

Inside the Christman Event Center, (L to R) my booth space, Joe Sonderman, and collector Mark Potter.
The view out on South Main Street/Route 66 with classic cars, vendors, and thousands of people.

On Friday evening the crowds migrated over to Galena KS to hear the marvelous Road Crew Band, eat more event food, stroll the blocks of historic Galena, and tour the newly-restored "Murder Bordello" and check out vehicles at Cars on the Route, formerly Four Women on the Route. 

Saturday evening's events were back in Joplin. The festivities were spread out for several blocks all day, with the vendors, classic car show, entertainment, and bands holding the crowds. That evening, the Road Crew Band played and then closing ceremonies took place before the Grass Roots took the stage. Arizona author/photographer Jim Hinckley displayed the Arizona flag as the torch was passed - the 2014 festival will be in Kingman AZ, thanks to Jim's hard work and tireless promotion of Route 66, both in his beloved Kingman and all along the route.

One of the highlights of the weekend was meeting Facebook friends in person and affixing faces to names. Another was the camaraderie among collectors, authors, photographers, and associations as we set up, talked shop, fielded questions, and on Saturday evening did our teardowns and loadouts. This carried over into the evening as a small group of us went for an excellent dinner and conversation at the Red Onion Cafe and then joined the huge crowd on South Main a block away for the evening festivities.

Left to right, Jim and Judy Hinckley, Lorraine and Joe Sonderman, and me.
To see Joplin enjoying a sort of "coming out party" and strutting its stuff after the disastrous EF-5 tornado just two years ago was a joy for many of us. The community seemed ready and eager to host a party. Much rebuilding is still going on and there are still "empty" sections anchored only by concrete lots and foundations that once held buildings and businesses in their embrace. 

Galena is also enjoying rebirth due to the efforts of some individuals and groups. I heard numerous comments about Galena attracting the biggest crowd in town that Friday night since its mining days. Some restoration, a new mural there too, and some new life being breathed into the town was fun to witness.

Galena's new mural.
After reflection on the Joplin event, it's time to look forward to the next Midwest events I'll be attending - the Mother Road Route 66 Festival in Springfield IL September 27-29 and Cuba Fest in Cuba MO October 19-20.


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