Travelers with an eye for moments and places from another time stopped at the Joliet Area Historical Museum on Saturday on their way along the Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festival.
The annual festival takes the travelers to 12 stops that include retro gas stations, an old-time jail and other attractions staffed with a welcoming committee along a route that runs as far south as Lexington.
Or farther, if you’re like Dominic Ruffalo II and Dominic Ruffalo III of Muenster, Indiana, who have made the excursion a father-and-son event since 2019.
“We enjoy it,” said Ruffalo II, noting they planned to drive on to Springfield. “It’s the nostalgia.”
“You’re going back in time,” Ruffalo III said.
The Ruffalos planned to dine at the Cozy Dog Drive In, a Route 66 stop in Springfield since 1949, before the day was done.
“We get tidbits of history,” said Pat Marcus of Warrenville, who takes the Red Carpet Festival tour each year with her friend Tim Martin of Sycamore.
The Illinois Route 66 Mining Museum in Godley and the Two Cell Jail in Gardner are among their favorite stops. And, they noted that people making the trip tend to get to know each other throughout the day.
“Every town along the way has a festival or a car show or something,” Martin said.
Steve Speakman of Crest Hill was driving his Model A Ford along the route.
“I enjoy it because of all the different cars you see, and all the events in the different towns,” Speakman said.
Many of the Red Carpet festival-goers traveled in classic cars from eras that spanned the original life of Route 66, which was built in 1926 before it began to be replaced by the interstate system and eventually being officially decommissioned in 1985.
Getting off the interstate is one of the attractions, said Mickey Boyd of Frankfort, who was making his first Route 66 trip with his wife, Marge, after the two of them heard a presentation about the old highway at the Frankfort Public Library.
“It just sparked my interest to drive across the country again on the two-lane roads — not on the interstate. Take your time and see the sites,” Mickey Boyd said.
Boyd got a sense of the broad appeal of the historic highway in April when he visited the Joliet museum, which has a Route 66 exhibit, and met a traveller from Mexico City who was on the Route 66 Tour.
Route 66 stretched from Chicago to Santa Monica, California. While it is no longer an official highway, remnants of the original path, including Route 53 as it passes through Joliet, are mapped out and marked for Route 66 travelers.
Boyd plans to travel the entire Route 66 with his brother from Minneapolis in a few weeks.
Chris and Victoria Letourneau travel Route 66 “in sections,” Chris said, and have gotten as far as Arizona.
“It’s a trip down memory lane,” he said, even though the historic highlights of Route 66 are from their parents’ era and precede their memories.
“We like history,” Victoria said.
One of their favorite spots along all of Route 66 is the Standard Oil Gas Station in Odell, which is part of the Red Carpet tour and is fitted with tools, auto parts and even re-enactors to bring the past back to life.
“It literally looks like it did in the day — the 1930s,” Victoria said.
The Joliet museum staff did not have an official count of Red Carpet participants. But each year they have 1,000 free stickers and maps to hand out, and most are gone by the end of the day.
“This is so much fun,” said Karen Horn, the museum gift shop manager, as she greeted Red Carpet travelers. “The Route 66ers are very passionate people.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle