The International Route 66 Festival may bring America and the world to Route 66, but the Mother Road never leaves Carthage or Joplin.

The International Route 66 Festival may bring America and the world to Route 66, but the Mother Road never leaves Carthage or Joplin.

Organizers estimate that 40,000 people might come to Joplin for the annual celebration of Route 66. It's the first time the event has been held in Missouri and it kicks off today with a cruise night that ends in Carthage and a special sold-out showing of the Disney-Pixar movie Cars at Carthage's Route 66 Drive In Theater.

The festival continues Friday and Saturday with events in Joplin, Galena, Kan., and other surrounding communities. A schedule of events is available on the event's website,

Every day's a festival
In many ways, every day is a Route 66 festival in Carthage and the other towns that line the Mother Road.

Ed Hardesty, a Carthage City Council member who opened the Mother Road Coffee Shop on the Carthage Square in April, told the council in June that many of the visitors to his shop are travelers on Route 66.

“Since Kara and I have moved here, people have told us we have international visitors here, a lot. In our coffee shop, we put up a world map in May and I ask our international visitors to put a nail in the country that they're from. In three months, we already have represented 23 countries of people that are coming through Carthage visiting. Every continent in the world is represented except for South America and Antarctica.”

Jeff Hyman, Fisherville, Ky., came through Carthage in April driving a 1962 Corvette he and a friend had taken several years ago to California on Route 66.
At that time, the two met Martin Milner and George Maharis, stars of the 1960s television series Route 66. The two stars autographed the car on the drivers side door and under the trunk lid.

Hyman said he wife had died in December, 2012, and his friend had died in the 1990s, so he decided to recreate the trip he and his friend made so long ago.
Hyman said he got hooked on Route 66 and on the Corvette as a kid in the 60 when he watched the television show.

“Ever since the age of 11 or 12, I used to pull out my father's old maps, because he traveled, and I would look at the maps and I would always wonder 'where does this road go to or where does that road go to, what's that town like,'” Hyman said. “Then when the TV show came on, I thought isn't that something. Wouldn't that be something to travel around the country. The show's intention was to bring the United States into the living room of most people and I used to, from a very young age, always wish that I could drive down the highway, especially in my favorite car. Now I have done that on numerous occasions, but not like this trip.”

Preserving the adventure
Kaisa Barthuli, program manager for the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program with the National Park Service, visited Carthage this week to recognize Debye Harvey and the Boots Court for completion of a restoration project that included removing the gabled roof from the motel.

She said Carthage's Boots Court is a Route 66 icon known around the world and drawing travelers to the area.

“When it's in your own backyard, sometimes it can be hard to understand just how important it is when you're so familiar with it,” Barthuli said. “Part of our job is to help raise awareness about how the world and the nation views places like the Boots. These people view it as representative of  Route 66. Route 66 is an icon of  America and the Boots Motel is an icon of Route 66. It's right here in your community and its a gem.”

Harvey said people tell her they travel Route 66 to see America outside the big cities.

“Europeans are coming to see the real America, that's why they travel Route 66, so they can meet real Americans in their real habitat,” Harvey said. “Americans don't really have that need, they are real Americans, so we have to find some other way of attracting that crowd.”

Hyman said Route 66 is an adventure for him, one that rolls out in front of him on the open road.

“It is, for me personally, the ultimate adventure,” Hyman said. “It is the ultimate adventure to explore and to find out what's around the corner. Life has its ups and downs just like the road does. I picture life as like the road. You never know what's going to come your way.”