Ruben on the Road: Taking a look at the rich history behind Route 66

Published: May. 5, 2023 at 9:37 AM CDT|Updated: May. 5, 2023 at 9:38 AM CDT
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AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - Known as the mother road of America, Ruben had the opportunity to explore the rich history behind Route 66 in this week’s edition of Ruben on the Road.

Route 66 Historian Dr. Nick Gerlich said 1926 was a special year.

“That was the year that all the federally numbered highways were created. That was on the 11th of November. It’s just that 66′ became the most important one,” Gerlich said.

Pop culture has also shown it’s popularity, he said.

“We’ve had books, songs, television shows, and then the animated movie Cars 17 years ago, all extolling the virtues of one highway, number 66,” Gerlich said.

He said it took Amarillo about four years after 1926 to figure out which path Route 66 would take through the city.

“Everybody wanted the road to go past their business not somebody else’s,” he said. “They finally decided on what is now Amarillo Boulevard or Northeast 8th Avenue which then went west to Fillmore, turned south and then turned right on Southwest 6th, which we call locally 6th Street.”

In June, many will celebrate the Texas Route 66 Festival.

“Amarillo and the entire Panhandle are very proud to be one of the first areas to really start to kick off the celebrations for the centennial that’s coming up in 2026,” said Hope Stokes, marketing director, Amarillo Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re doing it really big this year with the Texas Route 66 Festival. That’s going to be a 10-day festival that will start June 1 through June 10.”

The celebration includes many activities, such as classic car shows, Texas Route 66 bus tours, cattle drives, parades, music festivals, and a grand finale festival on Amarillo’s Route 66 Historic District.

“Our area in Amarillo feels like it’s very important to breathe life back into this historic route and make sure that the mother road and the heart of the mother road, which is the Texas Panhandle, really shows out and showcases the road that shaped America,” Stokes said.