A few weeks ago, I received a message from the show runner for the Route 66 PatriotFest in Tulsa. They had seen the photos I took at the Gasconade Bridge Rally in April and were keen on having me on hand for their event on Memorial Day weekend. I was ecstatic to accept! I missed out the inaugural PatriotFest last year and was thankfully able to switch around my work schedule to attend this time around.
When I was getting everything together on Friday night, I pulled out an old vest from the closet. It was my father’s; he bought it in the 1980s to use when he went to the gun range, as it had a TON of pockets. I showed it to Samantha and lamented the fact that it was too large on me and thus I had never worn it. She not only helped me tighten up the sides so that it WOULD fit (an option I’d never considered) but helped me realize it was actually a photographer’s vest! I could use it for shooting, too, it turned out. I left the house at 6:20 AM on Saturday morning with a vest full of spare batteries, alternate lenses, business cards, and other items I might need. After a quick breakfast, I pulled into the parking lot of East Central High School near the Route 66 Gateway.
There were already over a dozen cars in the lot lining up to take part in the Route 66 Cruise. The overcast sky hadn’t put a damper on anybody’s spirits. There were vehicles representing every decade of the American automobile: muscle cars, Model As, modern sports cars, motorcycles, & even a few semi trucks! A collection of police officers from the Tulsa PD and Oklahoma Highway Patrol showed up, too, ready to escort the cruisers down Route 66 to the festival grounds in southwest Tulsa. One of the officers even drove a restored Oklahoma Highway Patrol vehicle with a cherry-on-top light, which kindled fond memories of my godfather Bill Freeman’s old patrol car from when I was six years old. By the time the cruise began at 8:00 AM there were so many vehicles that I lost count, but there were well over 100.
I left the school parking lot as the cruise began and took the Interstate to the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza at the Arkansas River. There were a few locations along the Route that I’d scouted a few days prior to use for capturing the cruise as everyone drove by. I settled on the Centennial Plaza, as it showcases the city of Tulsa with some great Route 66 signage above the street. When the caravan of classic cars arrived, it took nearly twenty minutes for them all to pass by.
I arrived at PatriotFest a little after 9:00 AM. The car show took up nearly of a mile of Route 66 in historic Red Fork, once a separate small town but now part of Tulsa proper. The community is not only the place where the first oil well in Tulsa County was built but also boasts a rich railway heritage, both of which are represented at Route 66 Village.
The roadside attraction served as the centerpiece of the festival with their vintage locomotive and giant oil derrick. The surrounding grass was full of inflatables and games of the kids. Since the event took place on Memorial Day weekend, the US Armed Services are a main focus of the gathering. Many of the vendor booths set up at the adjacent Daniel Webster High School parking lot were veteran-based. There was a remembrance wall for lives lost and an area for veterans to record their stories for posterity.
In addition to the 270+ cars lined up on the Mother Road for all to ogle, there was a stage set up for live music and other performances. Throughout the day there was a Pet Show, a Pinup Contest, and a prize raffle. I bumped into several old friends as I wandered and struck up conversations with many people about their immaculately-restored vintage automobiles.
Southwest Tulsans are very passionate about their corner of the city and take great pride in setting their district apart. Every local I talked to was pleased with the turnout and reception that the 2016 PatriotFest received. As I walked the road myself, I saw representatives from all branches of local media and even the mayor. The sun broke through the clouds early in the day and the weather was perfect.
By the time things wrapped up at 4:00 PM, I was exhausted. It was an excellent day that I was proud to be a part of; I look forward to many more successful years for the event. To see all of the photos I took (and to purchase prints if you like ’em!) check out www.cloudlesslens.com.