JOPLIN — A Joplin businessman wants to highlight the city's link to the historic Route 66, which turned west toward Kansas at an intersection in the southwest Missouri city.
Paul Whitehill has begun raising money to install two tile murals and a tourist photo opportunity on the wall of a hardware store near the intersection of Seventh and Main streets.
Whitehill said he intends to have the murals ready for the International Route 66 Festival, which takes place Aug. 1 to 3 in Joplin, The Joplin Globe reported.
The festival is scheduled around an annual meeting with eight state associations and the National Park Service, in which they discuss ways to preserve and promote the historic highway, once the main route west between Chicago and Los Angeles before the interstate system was built.
"We're trying to get some Route 66 heritage exposure," said Patrick Tuttle, director of the Joplin Conventions and Visitors Bureau. "With the International Route 66 Festival, it gives us a great opportunity to connect with a lot of the roadies who will be here."
Tuttle said visitors from as many as 22 countries drive the historic route around the time of the festival, which also includes exhibits and presentations about the route and a marketplace where vendors sell Route 66-related memorabilia and merchandise.
"We have been looking at what we can do to get them to stop and spend some time in Joplin versus going through," Tuttle said.
Whitehill said the ground-level mural will include a sports car-themed seat where visitors can take a photo in front of the murals, which will be made with ceramic tiles applied with a new digital-image material that is resistant to graffiti and fading.
The Joplin City Council has agreed to take out a decaying brick courtyard next to the Pearl Brothers building. And the Joplin Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce are working with Whitehill, who is raising private money to pay for the murals and their installation.
He said he is reducing his costs, and he expects the project to cost about $63,000.