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Birthplace of Route 66 Festival This Saturday

Downtown Springfield is hosting a celebration for Route 66 this weekend.
Route 66 Festival
This year's Route 66 Festival will feature a classic car show in the square. /Credit: Birthplace of Route 66 Facebook Page

Springfield will commemorate its significance with Route 66 through a downtown festival.  KSMU’s Kaitlyn Schwers shares how Springfield was involved with the creation of Route 66 and why it’s celebrating this weekend.

[Sound: Red's Giant Hamburg commerical, man singing "Hamburger, cheeseburger, lettuce, and tomato..."]

This is a commercial for Red’s Giant Hamburg, a drive-thru in Springfield which was a frequent stop along Route 66—the historic road that stretched from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Springfield played a major role in the development of the roadway. John Sellars, director of the History Museum on the Square, explains how a group of investors and politicians named the highway while staying in Springfield.

“They were trying to come up with a plan of what they wanted their highway to be called since it couldn’t be called 60. The federal government had offered them the highway 62 number, and they thought it sounded like it was an afterthought or 60 also—just wasn’t a good connotation to it. So, this group of people, led by John T. Woodruff and a man named Cyrus Avery from Tulsa, came up with the idea that 66 sounded great. So they sent a telegram from here, from the Colonial Hotel, to Washington D.C. saying ‘We want the Highway 66 appellation,’” Sellars explained.

And so, Springfield became the birthplace of Route 66, which is being celebrated this weekend downtown through the 3rd Annual Birthplace of Route 66 Festival.

David J. Eslick is co-chairman of the event.

“It’s been a fun time promoting this and visiting with people along the route here in Springfield and promoting Springfield history along with Route 66,” Eslick said.

He says the festival will feature a classic car show, live music, vendors, a ceremony for the John T. Woodruff award, and a little bit of history.

“There’s going to be the Butterfield Stage sitting on the square. The Butterfield Stage crossed Route 66 in 1858—the first run of the Butterfield Stage came to Springfield and stopped on the square, so we’re going to include that. And then just prior to the award ceremony at 4 o’clock there’ll be a Wild Bill Hickok shootout and that’ll start the award ceremony over there.”

The History Museum on the Square will be open as well for the public to view its Route 66 exhibit.

The event is happening on the square on Saturday, August 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and admission is free.

Learn more about the event on its Facebook page, “Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, Springfield MO.”

For KSMU News, I’m Kaitlyn Schwers.