This week I had the pleasure of joining in the celebration for the new Route 66 Center, located at the corner of Webb and Broadway streets, in Webb City.
I was joined by several state and local leaders, Webb City residents and a few Route 66 enthusiasts. Among the celebrants were Speaker Ron Richard (Senator-Elect), the new state representative-elect Charlie Davis, Webb City Mayor John Biggs, and representatives from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Department of Transportation. The formal ribbon-cutting ceremony was hosted by the Webb City Area Chamber of Commerce.
The building, a former gas station, received new roofing, air conditioning and heating units, walls, garage doors and floors; remodeling efforts were funded with two grants totaling about $55,000. There are offices for a downtown manager and the Chamber of Commerce. A unique focal point addition is a mural, painted by none other than Mayor John Biggs, that’s inside the building. Measuring 8 feet tall and 16 feet wide, the painting depicts 1940s travelers along a portion of Route 66 that is located near Lakeside Park between Carterville and Carthage.
He is also planning a mural on the outer brick wall just north of the center. He told me that mural will include depictions of various gas pumps from over the years. I advised that he may also want to add an electric plug-in to capture the energy of the future. He looked skeptical.
The center will eventually sell Route 66 clothing and souvenirs, host rotating exhibits (they have a couple of vintage cars on display now that are worth a look), and will have more information about Route 66 for the visiting tourists. We are in discussions with officials to make this site an official affiliate welcome center for the Missouri Division of Tourism.
A personal highlight of the trip was a chance to spend a couple of hours with my niece and god-daughter, Meggie Jenny. I also got to meet her 9-week old son, Landon, for the first time. After the ribbon cutting, we picked up 3-year-old Alexis from school.
I took them to the historic Bradbury Bishop Deli for a quick lunch.
I noted during my remarks at the event that young Landon will get to know more about the history and heritage of Webb City, and what it is that makes Route 66 the most popular highway in America because of this new center. It is also a great thing that young people like Meggie and her husband Matt have moved to Webb City to raise their family. Matt works with his dad at MJT Custom Aged Guitars http://mjtagedfinishes.com/.
Congratulations to all of the public and private collaborators, including my friend Chuck Surface, who worked for so long to make this tourism asset a reality. Webb City hopes projects like these will bring visitors off the Interstate and bring them back onto the Mother Road, helping put small towns back on the map.
“We want them to stop, we want them to buy gas, to have lunch,” said Chuck, who is the director of the Webb City Economic Development.
I got to do all of that, and encourage many others to follow.
To learn more about Webb City and Route 66, check out http://route66tvonline.homestead.com/WEBBCITYpage.html.