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International travelers roll into the Route 66 Museum in Clinton

The Route 66 Museum in Clinton attracts international travelers primarily because the historic road is a symbol of American history
BY MAX NICHOLS Modified: June 27, 2010 at 12:54 am •  Published: June 27, 2010

When I was a boy during the late 1940s, my friends and I loved to count the wide variety of license plates on cars passing along Route 66 near my home in Oklahoma City. They came from all over the country and Canada.

Now, with nearly 400 miles of Route 66 protected in Oklahoma for its legendary and historical role in America's development, visitors come from every continent except Antarctica to get their "kicks" on Route 66. That is clear from a report by the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton.

Of the record number of 33,000 museum visitors in 2009, 35 percent came from 23 other countries, said Pat Smith, museum director for the Oklahoma Historical Society.

These include Canada, Mexico and Australia, plus 10 countries in Europe, four in South America, four in Asia, and two in Africa.

"This is a tremendous tribute to the Clinton community," said Bob Blackburn, director of the Historical Society. "The Friends of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, a population of about 10,000, raised more than $200,000 to help establish the museum in 1995. They have remained a strong financial partner, operating a gift shop and collecting admission fees."

The Route 66 Museum attracts international travelers primarily because the historic road is a "symbol of American history," said Smith.

In talking daily with visitors from around the world, she said they associate the real American experience with Route 66 for five main reasons:

The open road, small town America and freedom: They see Route 66 as an open road with slowdowns in towns and a few cities, while roads in their countries often are cramped with traffic, vendors, and other obstacles.

"Grapes of Wrath" phenomenon: They want to see the Dust Bowl area of the 1930s and travel the road so many used to migrate west.

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