Festival founders preserve Historic Route 66 for future generations

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Lifelong Springfieldians Tommy and Glenda Pike are a walking, talking encyclopedia of Mother Road lore and history.

In 1989, while antiquing in Halltown, the Pikes came across a sign-up sheet to form a Missouri Route 66 association. They signed up and went to the Route 66 Association of Missouri’s first meeting at STOS Truck Stop in Mount Vernon.

Lifelong Springfield resident Tommy and Glenda Pike are a walking, talking encyclopedia of Mother Road lore and history.

Lifelong Springfield resident Tommy and Glenda Pike are a walking, talking encyclopedia of Mother Road lore and history.

The pair have been active members of the association ever since. Tommy is the association’s current president.

“We love the slower pace of the Mother Road, its icons – both new and old – and the friends we’ve made along the way,” Glenda said.

Tommy has held positions on several Route 66 committees in connection with the National Park Service.

The Pikes and their daughter Tonya, who grew up with a love for Route 66 and is the current secretary of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, spend a lot of time trying to convince cities and towns along the route to invest in their pieces of Route 66. “It’s an economic development tool,” Tommy says. “If communities embrace their Route 66 history, the tourists will come.”

Tonya is an advocate for teaching the importance of preservation to the younger generation.

“Before we know it, it’ll be time for the younger folks to inherit the Mother Road and they will have to become its caretakers,” Glenda said.

Lifelong Springfieldian David Eslick is a Route 66 preservationist, photographer and Route 66 T-shirt designer who also serves on the Route 66 Association of Missouri’s board of directors. Eslick presents the festival’s John T. Woodruff Award each year.

The award, named for the Springfield businessman who is considered one of the fathers of Route 66 and was the first president of the U.S. Route 66 Association, recognizes supporters and promoters of Historic Route 66. Previous recipients have included Susan Croce Kelly, Tommy and Glenda Pike and Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven owner Gordon Elliott. Eslick will present the 2016 award at noon Saturday, Aug. 13 at Park Central Square.

Eslick is the grand marshal of the second annual Birthplace of Route 66 Parade, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12 at College Street and Grant Avenue and will travel west to east through the square to St. Louis Street and National Avenue this year.

Eslick was also the chairman of the Springfield Great Race Stop in the 2015 Hemmings Motor News Great Race, which made its first overnight stop in Springfield.

More than 100 antique and vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles drove on much of Historic Route 66 as they made their way from Kirkwood, Missouri to Santa Monica, California June 20-28, 2015.

West Central Neighborhood Alliance
If you yearn for the days of front porches and friendly neighbors, the West Central Neighborhood Alliance encourages you to join them by living and investing in West Central, the home of the Birthplace of Route 66 Roadside Park and through which the western portion of Springfield’s stretch of Route 66 runs.

The West Central Neighborhood is bounded by Grand Street on the south, Kansas Expressway on the west, Chestnut Expressway on the north, and South and Boonville on the east.

The Birthplace of Route 66 Festival began in 2010 as a West Central Neighborhood car show to fund-raise for improvements to the College Avenue portion of Springfield’s stretch of Route 66. By 2015, the festival had grown into a two-day car show and drew 23,000 people to downtown Springfield.

“Springfield has really come together to try to make our downtown great again. Embracing our Route 66 history is an important part of spotlighting authentic places and experiences in Springfield,” says Rusty Worley, former president of WCNA and executive director of the Downtown Springfield Association.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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