• Sign grant program aims to light up Route 66 in Tulsa

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    TULSA, Okla. (AP) - A new grant program hopes to encourage businesses in Tulsa to invest in neon signage to light up Route 66, which could help bring tourism and other investment into the area, officials said.

    The city and the Route 66 Commission announced the Route 66 Neon Sign Grant program Thursday, the Tulsa World reported.

    The effort seeks to re-ignite the 26 miles (42 kilometers) of the Mother Road in the city with restored original signs or new signs designed in a vintage style. The goal is to attract tourism and investment to the area, officials said.

    "We're very excited to be able to use preservation as an economic development tool," said Amanda DeCort, chairwoman of the Route 66 Commission's Preservation and Design committee.

    Countless neon signs along Route 66 have been lost because of cheaper alternatives, changing zoning laws and declining business opportunities, said Rhys Martin, the commission's chairman.

    "These signs, once simply a necessity for small business owners, are now regarded as intricate works of art," he said.

    The application process opens April 1. Businesses can seek up to $10,000 in matching funds per exterior sign.

    The commission has $40,000 in funds from the Vision Tax for the program, with another $40,000 scheduled to become available after July 1.

    Cindy Turner hopes to use the grant to help restore the original sign outside Billy Ray's Catfish and BBQ, which went up when the restaurant opened in 1984. The sign features Billy Ray's mother's handwriting, but has been dark for more than two decades, Turner said.

    "This is a testament and an honor toward Billy Ray and his mother as both are not with us anymore," she said. "So we're very excited to have that back up and representing all that he wanted Billy Ray's to be."

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    Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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