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The Rebirth of Route 66

The internationally known Historic Route 66 has been a significant part of Joliet history, and the city and its residents have strived to preserve the Mother Road’s heritage here. This push in Route 66-related tourism stands as the city’s newest initiative, and it is certainly a prominent measure as the historic roadway has been revealed as the state’s second-most popular attraction – just behind the city of Chicago.Route 66 was intended to be the main street through towns, which had very little impact on Joliet in the beginning, according to the City Center Partnership. As time moved on, so did Route 66. On November 11, 1926, Route 66 was officially broken in, with Chicago Street chosen as the route through Joliet.

In 2006, the city of Joliet and Joliet City Center Partnership joined forces with Route 66 historians and consultants to brainstorm and develop a Route 66 initiative movement. The initial plan involved Joliet applying for and receiving more than $150,000 in attractive development and marketing grants from the state of Illinois Bureau of Tourism. Ultimately, this funding was used to renovate the Route 66 Experience at the Joliet Area Historical Museum.

The grants were also applied in order to create further Route 66-themed attraction elements throughout the city, as well as for the marketing of these components through brochures, advertisements and the implementation of a website.

The Route 66 Experience allows visitors to take a step back in time through a number of interactive exhibits and activities for guests of all ages. This is a free Route 66-themed exhibit, complete with drive-in theater, four-color murals, Blues Brothers photo opportunities, a car that travels the road on the ceiling and more.

Adding to this was the development of Route 66 Park on Broadway Street, where guests are afforded access to informational Route 66 kiosks, Blues Brothers statues dancing on the roof of the Rich and Kreamy Ice Cream Shop, the nine-foot Joliet Kicks shield sign and one of five “historic stop” gas pumps that can be discovered around the city.

In February of 2008, the city of Joliet Visitors Bureau was the recipient of three state awards in recognition of its marketing excellence for the Route 66 Campaign at the Illinois Governor’s Conference on Tourism. Among its acknowledgments was the award for Best General Brochures for its Joliet Kicks on Route 66 Walking and Driving Tour Brochure, the award for Best Integrated Marketing Campaign for the 2007 Joliet Kicks Off on Route 66 event, and the award for Best Alternate Advertising for the Joliet Kicks on Route 66 Directional Signage Campaign.

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