Route 66 Charity Car Show provides a piece of American history
By Alexis Burnett
Once a year, historic downtown Flagstaff’s narrow streets and redbrick buildings are alight with a unique kind of feeling. With 50s and 60s music blasting on street corners and smells wafting from vendors’ booths, people of various ages and descents crowd the streets and gaze at cars from all eras.
This was the atmosphere of the 8th Annual Route 66 Charity Car Show held this past weekend, organized by the Route 66 Car Club. With craft booths, food vendors and a maximum of 425 cars from the past and the present, there was something for everyone to gaze at. What was so unique about the event was the sense of community among showers, goers and sellers alike.
Route 66 Car Club, a non-profit organization, started in 1985 as club for Chevrolet Corvairs. The club’s interest expanded into other models and eras as the organization grew. Mark Strango, president of the Route 66 Car Club, is one of many who help run the car show. In the past six years, the show has raised about $150,000, $18,000 in the past year, which all went to local charities and the Flagstaff community. The club and show manage to do all this while also bringing business to the town. “[There is] an economic jolt to the economy every time we come up,” Strango said.
In the scope of history, cars and Route 66 have symbolized progress, travel, freedom and community. On the subject, Strango said, “My parents came out of WWII. At that time, you had the big expansion west. In WWII, not everybody owned a car. [Route] 66 was the first main road that went Midwest, starting into Chicago, and ending in Santa Monica, California. That’s how we migrated west. As a kid, I can remember riding in the car on Route 66. It’s the experience…It’s the love of the road; it’s beautiful. I can’t explain it any other way.”
Don Chacon, a Class of 1965 NAU alumnus and an educator for 45 years, was at the show on Saturday as an entrant, showing a classic car he fixed up and remodeled himself. Of the entrants, Chacon said, “You’re not going find a nicer group of people…we’re not here to raise chaos.” Lifting his cap to reveal gray hair, he added, “I mean, look how old we are.”
The car show strives to preserve the spirit of Route 66, small and yet so significant in the grand scheme of history. Strango said, “The main road is fading fast and we need to keep it alive for future generations. I’d like to see more of 66 get back on board – more of the states get together and make it a more continuous route…so people can experience it. [Otherwise,] our kids will never know.”
The show is an interesting, fun way to spend a day. It is a place for young people to learn and for others to relive the past. Walking down the streets, one can hear conversations in different languages, like Japanese and German, all brought together by a common interest in history represented through vehicles. Although a tourist area, Flagstaff is still an intimate community because local organizations, like the Route 66 Car Club, seek to benefit the town.