- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) - The city of Kingman is preparing to welcome Route 66 enthusiasts by hosting an international festival featuring drive-in movies, classic cars and concerts.

Volunteers and organizers are doing some light construction, painting, cleaning up sidewalks and hanging pictures in the windows of vacant buildings ahead of the mid-August event that is expected to draw more than 5,000 people to the western Arizona city.

Still left on the list is securing additional funding to help promote the event through billboards, radio, television and newspaper advertising. Organizers initially asked the city for more than $50,000 but say the amount will be scaled back before going to the City Council for a vote, possibly at its early June meeting.

Festival director Dora Manley said Tuesday that she’s optimistic it will be approved.

“If something happens to where it doesn’t go through, no matter what happens, the event is going on,” she said. “People are coming from all over the world to Kingman to see what we’re about.”

Route 66 was the main highway between Chicago and Los Angeles before the interstate system was built. Mother Road enthusiasts build their vacations around the annual festival, coming from as far away as Germany, Czechoslovakia and Japan. Last year’s festival was held in Joplin, Missouri. Flagstaff hosted the event in 2009.

Kingman resident Jim Hinckley was part of a group that submitted the bid to the Route 66 Alliance to bring the festival to Kingman, a city with a history in railroads, mining and ranching, and that maintains a connection to American Indian tribes. He said similar festivals have been catalysts for reviving historic districts, and serve as a reunion of sorts for people from all over the world.

“It’s an authentic American experience,” Hinckley said. “Route 66 is more than a mere highway; it has become a living, breathing time capsule with just a little veneer of Disneyland.”

One of the expected highlights of the festival is a display of electrical cars, and city officials say the focus isn’t on Tesla vehicles but those from the early 1900s. Kristi Turman, chairwoman of the city’s Economic Development Marketing Commission, said if the display is well received, it might find a permanent home that will be open to the public in Kingman.

The festival also will feature Route 66 collectibles, art exhibits, a chuck wagon dinner, wine tastings and a drive-in theater at the fairgrounds.

Hinckley said visitors also can learn about the history of Kingman, including a test on the viability of using camels to transport military supplies through the desert Southwest in the 1850s, early automobile races, an airfield dedicated by Charles Lindberg in the late 1920s, a Buster Keaton-produced film that was shot in Kingman, and the marriage of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard in 1939 just a few blocks north of Route 66.

“There’s so much here,” he said.

A couple of things haven’t panned out as hoped for ahead of the festival. City manager John Dougherty said a planned renovation of a historic hotel on Route 66 won’t be complete. Establishing quiet zones to keep trains from sounding their horns in some areas won’t be either, he said.

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