• Megann Horstead

Joliet Route 66 festival attracts visitors across the area


Many tourists will embark on traveling the historic Route 66 each year, building a collection of stories and memories worth sharing when they return home. That was the case for a number of travelers stopping in the city of Joliet.

Despite rain early on, hundreds took part in the 10th annual Route 66 Red Carpet Corridor Festival at the Joliet Area Historical Museum May 7-8.

Greg Peerbolte, executive director at the Joliet Area Historical Museum, said hosting the festivities brings great meaning to those visiting downtown Joliet.

“It’s the ceremonial first stretch of Route 66 outside of Chicago and particularly, Joliet is where it goes from urban to country within a matter of minutes,” he said.

As part of the celebration, the museum opened up their Route 66 exhibit and hosted a presentation by a guest speaker.

A number of local businesses in town were also on board for heightening the festiveness of the 10th annual celebration including Joliet Rt. 66 Diner, Juliet’s Tavern and The Treehouse Café, among others.

Marty Varney, of Hammond, Indiana, was one of many making a stop at the Joliet Area Historical Museum. He said they come out to the festival every year.

“My wife and I have been doing the red corridor event for several years now,” he said. “We always like to start in Joliet.”

Varney said it brings great meaning being able to travel together along Route 66.

“We love to learn about the history of it,” he said. “As a kid, I remember going back and forth to Morris and Dwight. (I’m) recreating some of my youth.”

His wife Robin Varney, of Hammond, was also in attendance for the celebration. She said she was enjoying her time spent at the festival.

“Every town offers so many different things between garage sales and craft fairs and bands and food,” she said. “It’s just so much fun to see all the different people. A lot of places have people who originally lived on Route 66. It’s interesting to hear their stories.”

Peerbolte said those visiting the museum tend to enjoy their time spent traveling along Route 66.

More than 400 people attended the festival held in Joliet last year.

Peerbolte said they were expecting a nice turnout for the 10th annual event.

“Each year we’ve been open to the public to encourage that kick off of Route 66 season,” he said. “We find that it’s growing every year.”

Val Rand, of Joliet, was there for the festivities held in downtown Joliet. He said he enjoys driving down Route 66.

“It’s actually more beautiful and much more relaxing and you can really see much more of the farmland,” he said.

He noted how timing a trip can be challenging, but it’s worth it.

He added that if he were to make a trip along the Route 66 red corridor again, he would set aside more time for exploration.

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