Route 66 centennial planning begins in Oklahoma

TULSA, Okla. — Route 66 is as American as burgers, cars, apple pie and baseball. Established on Nov. 11, 1926, the Mother Road stretches 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica. There are 426 drivable miles on Route 66 in Oklahoma, more than any other state.

The centennial for “America’s Main Street” may be more than four years away, but planning and celebrations have already begun.

FOX23 Morning Anchor Ron Terrell met up with Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell at Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on Route 66. Pinnell is also the secretary of tourism for Oklahoma, and he said the centennial is going to be huge.

“We will throw a great birthday, I assure you, but it’s going to be much more than that. It’s gonna be a week, if not two weeks full of activities,” said Pinnell. “Just like the Oklahoma centennial was such a big deal a number of years ago ... We really believe the Route 66 centennial is going to be just as big of a deal for the state of Oklahoma.”

There are certain aspects of the celebration already underway. The Route 66 Centennial Commission has been meeting quarterly and has launched some new projects you may notice along the road.

“We partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation on a couple of projects. Number one, brand new signs are already up all over the state,” said Pinnell. “And they’re on the interstates, so you can exit off those interstates and know that you’re gonna be on Route 66.”

Pinnell said there are some of these signs in Tulsa already.

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Pinnell said celebrations are planned leading up to the centennial celebration, like June’s AAA Roadfest that will feature a car show, concerts and exhibits.

“We hope this is an every-year leading up to the centennial. So they’re launching it this year ... But I think every summer, that Route 66 Roadfest will be happening right here in Oklahoma,” said Pinnell.

It’s clear, no matter where you’re from, people know and love Route 66.

A man at Buck Atom’s from the Chicago area told Ron he loved Route 66 for all the Americana. “The sights you see along the way are just unique to the people that lived along it, or worked along it, or traveled along it over the years,” he said.

A man from London said he most likes the memorabilia. “We like the diners along the way, the scenery, the people ... the tourist attractions. We like the whole thing,” he said.

Mary Beth Babcock, the owner of Buck Atom’s, explained she’s already excited about the big party just around the corner.

“It’s gonna be transformational,” said Babcock. “We’re celebrating the centennial, 100 years of Route 66. I mean, this is a big deal. It’s not just a big deal for Tulsa. It’s a huge deal for the entire state.”

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While the centennial is big for the state and the nation, Pinnell revealed where he’d like to see the penultimate celebration of Oklahoma’s stretch of the Mother Road.

“We really would love to have the official birthday party right here in the Tulsa area. Cyrus Avery and Tulsa. Route 66 and Tulsa, and really the country,” said Pinnell. “Route 66 is what it is because of Cyrus Avery, so we would love to make a pitch for the Tulsa area to have the official birthday party.”

Until then just hop in the car, see the attractions and enjoy the ride.