I spent last weekend in Springfield, Missouri in the company of friends. It was the 8th annual Birthplace of Route 66 Festival and I had a vendor booth in the Old Glass Place, a historic venue near the iconic Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque.
When I attended my first Birthplace festival in 2015, I told my wife that one day I’d have a booth at the festival and I’d feel like I had “made it.” Well, there I was with my photography and other goods three years later. Mike Ward was even kind enough to deliver my custom-painted Jack Rabbit Trading Post sign from Arizona!
The whole weekend was a lot of fun. Each evening, a large group of roadies got together to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s a great environment for collaboration, too. That first night I drove to the Rest Haven Court to take photos of their neon sign which I’d only previously seen in the day. I parked a block away and waited for the tubes to light up as the sun sank below the horizon. After a few minutes, another photographer approached the sign. It was Efren Lopez, a man I hadn’t had an opportunity to get to know but whose work I really respect. I stopped lurking and parked closer so we could chat about our mutual love of neon. Thanks to Efren asking the office manager, the sign finally lit up to match the beautiful Ozark sky.
On Friday morning, I took an early drive south to the town of Ozark. They had a few old truss bridges that had been on my map for a while that I wanted to capture. The light was wonderful as I flitted about the Green Bridge, a 1912 span courtesy of the Canton Bridge Company from Ohio. The single lane was open to traffic, though its sister bridge two miles west was not so lucky. Significant flooding a few years ago damaged several bridges in Christian County, some of which never re-opened. The Riverside Bridge was recently purchased by Bass Pro Shops in Springfield and will be moved/reopened. That’s great news!
The days of the festival itself were festive indeed, with fleets of classic cars on the streets and a constant sea of humanity. My booth neighbors were Susan Croce Kelly (who wrote a book about Cyrus Avery) and David Wickline. David has been a figure in the Route 66 world for many years and I loved getting to talk to him about his various projects. His current push is to build a replica of the 66 Courts Motel in Kingman, AZ.
The weather was good during the day but a Friday evening a pop-up thunderstorm threatened to cancel the parade. Our group watched from second-floor windows as the downpour faded away and the parade started…only for the rain to return suddenly with a vengeance. I felt bad for the folks on floats and riding in vintage open-top automobiles…but at least there was no hail.
In too short a time, though, it was time to say goodbye and head home. I left Springfield early Sunday morning and hopped on-and-off the interstate to stop at a few Route 66 spots like the Gary Turner’s station in Paris Springs and the Boots Court in Carthage. It’s always nice to visit with the people of the road, even if it’s just for a few minutes. My final stop on the way home was at the Hi-Way Cafe in Vinita; if you missed my previous post about that visit, check it out here. The food and company were something to write home about!