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IMAGES: Birthplace of Route 66 Festival

Attending the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival was like stepping into a time warp. The nostalgic gala, featuring vintage cars, rockabilly concerts and a drive-in movie theater, celebrated Springfield’s historic role in Midwest culture.

The festival kicked off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday evening to dedicate a replica of Red’s Giant Hamburg sign. Red’s was a restaurant on Route 66 that had the claim to fame of being the first drive-through restaurant in the United States. Red’s served its last hamburger in 1984 but a memorial to the beloved food joint has been built at the Roadside Park on West College, near Fort Street. The replica’s cost, $15,000, was entirely crowdfunded by donations from community members and local businesses.

Mayor Bob Stephens addressed an audience of roughly 100 people at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“More than two years ago, with a little help from the city of Springfield, a group of citizens, businesses and developers created a plan to revitalize the mother road, Route 66 and pay homage to an unique and eclectic development on the city’s west side,” said Stephens.

Stephens said the Giant Hamburg sign is an important milestone in creating a renewed focus of Route 66 in Springfield.

The Route 66 5K Run Saturday morning started and finished a block away from Park Central Square. The entry fees from 71 participants helped raise money for future Route 66 related projects. Runners in the race were led around the track by a classic green car.

Festivities will continue for the rest of Saturday at the Square. Vintage cars of all shapes and sizes lined the streets for a classic car show. The day’s celebrations are scheduled to conclude with a concert by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils at the Gillioz Theater. The show starts at 7:00pm and will be simulcasted at the Square.

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