You all know that Afton Station (logically!) is in Afton, but newer readers might not know that I live in Tulsa. It's 85 miles, door-to-door from my home to Afton. When I first moved to Tulsa, I was just short of appalled by the city's disinterest in Route 66 and many of its residents who were ignorant of the fact that not only does Route 66 roll right through the center of town, but that Cyrus Avery, called "The Father of Route 66" once lived there! Things have vastly improved since then, and now I'm proud to say that Tulsa has become a true, 1st class Route 66 town. This is due, for the most part, to the slow-but-steady awareness of the Mother Road by folks in city government as well as those of us who call ourselves "roadies" and continue to push for improvements in signage and recognition of many of the important Route 66 landmarks in the city.
Now, here's where this little essay may turn to a case of patting myself on the back, and I do so with little or no apology. In 2002, a group of Route 66 enthusiasts, including myself, invited David Knudson, head of the National Historic Route 66 Federation, to travel to Tulsa from California, look around, and consider the city as a potential site for the 2004 International Route 66 Festival. He came, he was impressed, and we were impressed by his enthusiasm. By the time he left to go home, he was sold on Tulsa. After that, there was never any other city considered for the 2004 Festival.
So our little band of Route 66ers started to have weekly meetings (almost every week for two years!), and hired a PR firm which already loved Route 66 so much that they worked for a pittance, to give us guidance on how to pull this off. And, in June of 2004 we managed to present a large and amazing Festival attended by thousands. I was chairman of the whole thing, although that was almost an honorary title since there were many -- probably hundreds -- of folks who did far more than I did to make it a success.
On the last night of the Festival, we arranged to have "66" light up on the largest building in town. I'll never forget that moment. I stood there and cried and cried tears of pride. I was so proud of Tulsa, and I think at that moment I felt that I was finally a true citizen of this wonderful city. Unfortunately, I was carrying a cheap camera at the time, so this is my only photo of one of the proudest moments of my life. But to this day, I continue to feel that our Festival was the spark that ignited Tulsa's pride in being a true Route 66 city!