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Route 66 Advocates Aim To Keep Its Legacy Alive

Terri Ryburn at Ryburn Place
Eric Stock
Manager Terri Ryburn said Ryburn Place sees hundreds of visitors each month, including many from outside the U.S.

Route 66 advocates from across the Midwest will gather in Normal this weekend looking for ways to help the historic highway bring more tourism to their communities.

Terri Ryburn posing in front of Ryburn Place
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
Terri Ryburn opened Ryburn Place along Route 66 in 2017.

Terri Ryburn runs a Route 66 museum and visitors center called Ryburn Place at Sprague's Super Service in Normal. She's one of the organizers for the Miles of Possibility conference that Uptown Station is hosting Thursday through Sunday.

Ryburn said fans of the Mother Road want to pass down their appreciation to the next generation.

“We start to worry that when we are gone will anyone care about this road?” Ryburn asked. “We are trying to involve young people. How do we get young people interested?”

Ryburn said more Route 66 travelers using social media to chronicle their travels has helped keep the highway in the public conscience.

“People post their trip (on Instagram) and hundreds of people and hundreds of people follow that trip and then I hear people coming in and they keep running into the same people as they travel,” Ryburn said. “(They’ll say) ‘Oh look, they signed the guest book, they must be just ahead of us or whatever.’

“They are kind of building a community along Route 66."

Ryburn said she gets 500 to 600 visitors signing the guest book each month at her Route 66 visitor center and gift shop. She said about one-fourth of her guests are international.

The keynote speaker for the conference is Candacy Taylor. She's been working on a project that tells the story of the Green Book, what's been called the "Bible of Black Travel" as it helped people of color travel the country safely.

The conference also looks to tie in Bloomington-Normal’s history with the circus.

“People don’t realize the smaller circuses drove where they needed to be between circuses,” Ryburn said. “Many of the smaller circuses would have traveled Route 66 to get from site to site.”

Cherie Valentine from the Flying Valentinos family will speak at the conference about a journal she kept which details their journeys along the historic highway.

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Route 66 Conference - Full

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.