OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — At least two cities in Oklahoma along the famed Route 66 are planning to turn to billboards and neon signs to lure visitors in.
Travel along the route, which runs from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif., was popular first during the Dust Bowl era and later as a vacation destination for Americans. But traffic has slowed over the years as interstates became the more popular — and quicker — path to drive. This means some communities along Route 66 are bypassed by travelers.
Route 66 enthusiast Kathy Anderson has been working with the nonprofit Bethany Improvement Foundation to create the Billboard Museum, dedicated to commemorating vintage signs and billboards and the people who created them.
"There is a need, especially in Oklahoma, for a resting place for signs, whether it's neon, porcelain (or) any kind of outside advertising that is being threatened with destruction, either because there has been a business change or the sign itself, the owner just doesn't want the sign," said Anderson, who has worked on several Route 66 videos.
Arlita Harris, the foundation's secretary-treasurer, hopes the museum would draw more visitors to Bethany, located just west of Oklahoma City.
"There are a lot of people traveling Route 66, and I'm going to say 99 percent of them are international visitors," Harris said. "... We have just needed an attraction that makes sure people go through the Bethany part of Route 66 and not bypass the (Oklahoma City) metro area."
The museum is just an idea at the moment, though meetings are taking place all the time, Harris and Anderson said. Land — and lots of it — is what they are searching for now.
"A billboard museum cannot be small, so it won't fit on two acres," Anderson said.
The idea is to have a building to house some signs and billboards, as well as a driving loop to showcase vintage billboards. Anderson and members of the Billboard Museum committee also hope to locate a shopping complex called the Route 66 Retroplex near the museum.