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BNCVB receives additional grant funds for Route 66 projects

A Route 66 street sign hangs on a pole
Ralph Weisheit
/
WGLT
The funding comes as communities across Illinois prepare for the Mother Road's centennial anniversary in 2026.

A third round of grant funding from the state will pay for additional Route 66 tourism projects in McLean County.

The Bloomington-Normal Area Convention & Visitors Bureau [BNCVB] received $180,400 from an additional $3.3 million awarded in grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Development for Route 66 projects throughout the state.

The funding comes as communities across Illinois prepare for the Mother Road's centennial anniversary in 2026.

The new grant funds will cover the development and installation of murals in Lexington, Bloomington and McLean, as well as an electric vehicle charger at the historic Sprague Super Service gas station in Normal.

BNCVB president and CEO Crystal Howard said this round of funding was granted only to visitor centers and convention bureaus along Route 66, making the process "very competitive."

"But it's fun and Route 66, since 1926, has been part of our history in McLean County, so we're very privileged to be able to get these funds to showcase these communities," she said.

Howard said to expect a Route 66-themed mural to be painted along the side of the Red Raccoon Games building that faces Jefferson Avenue in downtown Bloomington. Another Bloomington mural will be placed at the Cruisin' with Lincoln on Route 66 Visitor's Center housed within the McLean County Museum of History. The mural in the village of McLean, about 20 minutes south of Bloomington, will be painted on the side of a grain bin. Another mural will be placed on large billboard near a corner of Route 66 in Lexington.

"All of these are obviously for visitors to come into our communities — visitors stopping on Route 66 and taking photo(s). Hopefully while they're here, they're going to stop in and buy gas, or eat at a restaurant or go into a gift shop," Howard said.

The installation of a Route 66-themed monument along Pine Street in Normal, she added, proved such attractions are an effective draw for tourists since "the minute we were dedicating the monument... visitors were stopping and getting photos at that monument." Similar monuments also have been placed in Chenoa and Bloomington.

The projects related to this third round of funding must be completed by June 30.

Last year, the BNCVB received $263,000 in grant funding for Route 66 projects in McLean County.

The funding is part of a state government effort to bolster tourism ahead of the 2026 Route 66 anniversary. About 300 miles of the 2,448-mile historic road spanning eight states traverses Illinois.

Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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