Dave Walden of Springfield raised the hood of his 1949 Chevrolet pickup as onlookers gathered around to get a good glimpse of the vintage, dark green truck from a time gone by.
“Boy, she’s a beauty,” says one classic car fan who took in Springfield’s annual Birthplace of Route 66 Festival in August 2016.
“Well, thank you,” Walden shot back. “I appreciate that!”
Walden has attended the popular festival every year since its start in 2010 but this is the first year he’s entered a vehicle to show and it has special meaning to him.
“This was my grandpa’s and he left it to me after he passed away,” said Walden. “He bought it in 1978 and I can remember riding around with him in it when I was a kid.”
Dave Walden’s classic 1949 Chevy pickup was on display at the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival in Springfield, Missouri.
Walden’s Chevy is just one of hundreds of vintage vehicles from all over the country that come to Springfield every year to participate in the annual Car & Motorcycle Show that includes a parade, Vendors Village, a 6.6-mile fun run and the annual gathering of authors, artists, collectors and associations who share an abiding appreciation for the Main Street of America.
Springfield’s emergence as the Birthplace of Route 66 began back in the 1920s when the federal government first mandated construction of a national highway system. A placard, now located on the east side of Park Central Square, commemorates Springfield’s subsequent 1992 designation as the official birthplace of Route 66.
Along the Route in Springfield
One of the first stops to make in Springfield for any Route 66 fan is the Route 66 Springfield Visitor Center, a primary source of information for any Mother Road adventure. Located on the highway’s original right of way through town, the center offers maps, driving directions and regional highlights that help visitors discover the top things to see and do in the Springfield area and some historical tidbits.
Another source of local Mother Road color is the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven, a vintage motel that’s been beautifully preserved and updated to combine vintage roadside charm with modern comfort and convenience. Elvis Presley even stayed at the Rail Haven and the room he occupied has been preserved in his honor.
The Elvis Room is one of the themed rooms at the Best Western Route 66 Rail Haven Hotel in Springfield, Missouri.
Just down the road from the Rail Haven is Springfield’s first Steak ’n Shake that will surely take you back in time with its carhop service and burgers that taste just like they did when the restaurant opened in 1962. Steak ’n Shake has also been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
For many years, U.S. 66 passed directly through Springfield’s Park Central Square. Along the city’s commercial and cultural hub, the square is a favorite Springfield feature, and not just because of the History Museum on the Square. The central plaza, which once provided parking for shoppers and travelers alike, is now an inviting pedestrian space with an appealing blend of shops, bistros and a variety of cuisines nearby.
Just down the road from Park Central Square is the all-new Route 66 Car Museum where you can get close to about 70 vintage cars from a time gone by.
Get YOUR kicks on Route 66 in Springfield!
Check out points of interest on Springfield’s stretch of Route 66.