The Springfield Route 66 festival

The annual International Route 66 Mother Road Festival in Springfield, Illinois, has come and gone again. This huge event, produced by Family Events (out of Indianapolis) in conjunction with the City of Springfield, is always fun. It's a huge car show and cruise (no surprise, car shows are what the company is all about) with numerous bands and plenty of vendors.

The festival occupies over a dozen blocks in downtown Springfield surrounding the historic old state capitol. The addition to this event that in my humble opinion is the icing on the cake is the Travel Illinois Expo, sponsored by Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway. A whole block of Washington Street north of the old capitol is devoted to the expo. This year, the expo exhibitors included yours truly and my fellow author Joe Sonderman.

Joe drove his 1957 Chevy Bel Air to the festival again this year. We stopped at Cozy Dog when we got to Springfield and had a late lunch, visited with friends we ran into there, and admired a mutual friend's Chevelle with Bob Waldmire artwork. 

After while we lined up at Capitol City Shopping Center for the cruise. The word on the street was that there were over 2,000 vehicles again this year! 

Sadly, we saw a stupid situation during the cruise that could have had disastrous results. The car ahead of us was weaving in and out of the center parade lane to throw candy, so naturally, kids were darting in and out of the street. Local traffic was being allowed to use the outer lanes, and a woman in regular traffic zipped up to our right wanting to pass. The car ahead was still weaving back and forth, the woman became irate, laying on her horn and trying to get by, the man in the car ahead became irate as well, voicing his displeasure at her, the road narrowed at a viaduct, and the woman had to temporarily drop back, which obviously irritated her even more. What could possibly go wrong? A couple blocks farther on, the woman finally got safely past the weaving car and no kids were harmed in the process.

After the cruise, we tried out a brand new eatery in nearby Rochester, Public House 29 (for Route 29), with Joe's old friend from their St. Louis radio days, WICS Springfield TV meteorologist Joe Crain. Good food, good service, good company, and a good ball game on TV. 

Saturday dawned bright and beautiful and we arrived downtown amid the usual bustle of activity - vendors setting up, food and supplies arriving, vehicles snaking through slender lanes between many classic cars. We were soon set up, and the crowd grew and grew. By afternoon, it was a sea of people looking down any street. The festival organizers always bill the event as being attended by 80,000. I don't know how they estimate or how accurate that is, but there are surely tens of thousands. 

Weather was great, though hot, and our book sales were very good. But the best part, as always with Route 66 events, was catching up with friends. We were delighted that our friends from France, Sylvie Toullec and her husband Freddy Van Hees, spent part of the afternoon with us. They had started their Route 66 trip in Los Angeles, timing it so they would arrive for the Springfield festival. Also during the weekend, our Springfield friends Josh and Wendy Friedrich and Charlie and Lizzie stopped by, as did two of my very awesome co-in-laws, Loni and Bob Bastas. We also had time to visit with Randy and Jan Miller and Gus and Pam Traylor Skeadas, among others.

Of course, we also got to visit back and forth with fellow Travel Illinois Expo exhibitors, including the good people of both the Illinois and Missouri Route 66 Associations and many others. Our exhibitor list read like a who's who of Illinois Route 66:  Land of Lincoln, City of Springfield, McLean History Museum, The Mill Project, Whispering Joe, Celt's, Doc's Soda Fountain, Buzz Waldmire, Berwyn Route 66 Museum, Heritage Corridor, Pontiac, IDNR, City of Litchfield, Soulsby Station, Blue Carpet Corridor, Gillespie, APL, City of Braidwood, Becky's Barn, Route 66 Ridez, Looking for Lincoln, the two Route 66 associations, and the Jett-Sonderman book booth.

On Sunday morning my guy Steve Rensberry and I had a pleasant breakfast at Jungle Jim's on 9th Street (City 66) before joining Joe downtown at the expo. The crowd was small on Sunday and we packed up about 3:00 pm and headed out. 

As always, many thanks to Bill Kelly and Stacy Conn of Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway for the invitation to participate in the Travel Illinois Expo! Now all we have to do is look forward to the 2015 event!


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