Reviving the Quirky Spirit of Route 66: Kingman 66 Fest’s Roadside Attractions and Graffiti Contest

From its inception in November 1926 quirky, odd, fascinating, and attention-grabbing roadside attractions have been a part of the Route 66 experience. In New Mexico there was a rattlesnake ranch, an old west museum, and fake prehistoric cliff dwellings. Illinois promoted an array of sites associated with Abraham Lincoln. Kansas offered the traveler an opportunity to experience a lead mine or tour a Civil War battlefield.

2022 66 Fest

A countless number of “trading posts” crowded the highway at the border of Arizona and New Mexico. Colorful roadside billboards lured the traveler with the promise of ice for the cooler, the chance to buy petrified wood, or an opportunity to see a jackalope.

The first visitors to Grand Canyon Caverns west of Seligman, Arizona were lowered into the darkness with a windlass and oversized bucket. The owners privately referred to this as ‘dope on a rope.”

Roadside attractions are still an integral part of the Route 66 experience. Some such as Pops in Arcadia, Oklahoma or Uranus Fudge Company & General Store near Lebanon, Missouri are an outgrowth of the Route 66 renaissance.

Kingman Route 66 Fest in Kingman, Arizona, scheduled for October 13th and 14th will be a microcosm of the memory making adventure that is a Route 66 road trip. And that includes an opportunity to enjoy classic roadside attractions. 

This year’s fest will include an opportunity to do some Cadillac Ranch painting without the drive to Amarillo, Texas. Cadillac Ranch is one of the most popular, and one of the quirkiest, attractions found on Route 66 between Chicago and Santa Monica. 

It is a public art installation that features 10 half-buried Cadillacs in a row, facing west in a field. The cars range from the 1949 Club Sedan to the 1963 Sedan de Ville, and they showcase the evolution of the Cadillac tail fin. Travelers are invited to add their artistry to the old cars and as a result they are covered in layers and layers of spray paint, creating a rainbow of colors and unique displays of graffiti art. 

The origins of Cadillac Ranch are as unusual as the attraction itself. It all started in 1974, when a local billionaire named Stanley Marsh 3 hired a group of hippie artists from San Francisco called The Ant Farm to create something that would baffle the locals. They came up with the idea of planting the Cadillacs in the ground at an angle that matched the Great Pyramid of Giza. Marsh provided the land and the cars, and The Ant Farm did the rest.

But at Kingman 66 Fest organizers are taking it a step further. In addition to a miniature version of Cadillac Ranch there will also be a Road Sign Graffiti Contest that will begin at 1:15pm on Saturday, October 14th. 

The eight selected contestants will have exactly 66 minutes to complete their artwork on a decommissioned road sign. When completed the road signs will be displayed so visitors may vote for a people’s choice award.​ The winner will receive a cash prize of $150 and contestants will be allowed to keep their colorful signs as a unique attraction from Kingman 66 Fest. 

Discover the magic, the fun and the memory making adventure of a Route 66 odyssey at Kingman 66 Fest this October!

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Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America

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