A few short years ago the historic business district in Kingman, Arizona, as with
small rural towns throughout the United States, was littered with empty store fronts, overgrown empty lots strewn with trash, pawn shops, and vintage motels that catered to people with limited income who simply needed a place to hang their hat for a week or two. At every turn there were vestiges of better times, and tangible links to a colorful history.
The origins for the renaissance that is currently transforming the historic business district, and the Route 66 corridor in Kingman can be traced to 2014, the year the city hosted the Route 66 International Festival. With enthusiasts from several countries, and more than 20 states, in attendance, the event served as an awakening for the community. Fast forward to 2018.
The Route 66 Association of Kingman, working with property owners and Legacy Signs, is bringing back the colorful glow of neon through the restoration of historic signage. Public art projects facilitated by the Kingman Center for the Arts and the Art Hub are enhancing the tangible vibrancy, and fostering development of a sense of community. Award winning microbreweries, eclectic restaurants, a diverse array of shops, and passionate young entrepreneurs such as Jessica Deihl who launched Savon Bath Treats in 2016 have transformed the district into a destination for locals, for travelers, and for investors.
Understanding the importance of networking and mutual support, business owners are working together on the hosting of events, innovative pooled resource marketing initiatives, and the creation of promotional projects that garner international recognition. Each month the Route 66 Association of Kingman hosts an open to the public “meet & greet” hosted by a local business (for April the event will be held at Savon Bath Treats on the evening of the 25th). In addition to providing a tremendous networking opportunity, these events also foster awareness about development.
Often the monthly meet and greet is used as a reception for groups traveling iconic Route 66. In May, in partnership with local car clubs and business owners, the reception will be for the first European Route 66 Tour. Participants in this historic event include members of the Dutch, German, and Czech Route 66 associations as well as enthusiasts from Belgium, Norway, France, and Italy.
The annual Route 66 Fun Run, now in its 31st year, is now a regularly scheduled stop for companies in Australia and New Zealand that organize Route 66 tours. The First Friday event that often includes a walking tour led by historian and author Jim Hinckley now attracts visitors from neighboring communities. As with Chillin’ on Beale, held on the third Saturday evening of each month, the First Friday festivities are often included in travel plans made by Route 66 enthusiasts. Similar events are currently under development. As a result, this community’s historic district is fast becoming a destination in itself.
It is definitely the dawn of a new era in Kingman.
written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America