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2019 City News Releases

Posted on: August 10, 2019

2019 John T. Woodruff Awards presented to Guy Mace and Kirk Wheeler


Birthplace of Route 66 Festival founder David Eslick presented the John T. Woodruff Award to two of Springfield’s most enthusiastic Route 66 supporters Saturday in Park Central Square during the 9th annual Birthplace of Route 66 Festival. 

Guy Mace has the Route 66 Car Museum at 1634 College Street on the original Route 66 through Springfield in a building that housed his company, Turblex. Mace has long supported Route 66. Before opening the car museum in 2016, he was the reason that the 2015 Great Race, a road rally on Route 66, made Springfield an overnight stop.

This stop, with 100 classic cars, their drivers and navigators and support crews, brought about 1,000 spectators to the Queen City. His car, “The Bomb Squad,” a 1932 Ford Roadster raced in 20 of the Great Races and now is one of the 75 classic cars, along with “The Batmobile” and “The Ghostbusters Ambulance” (from the movies) in the museum.

Since the museum’s opening, Route 66 travelers from around the world have made it a must-see in Springfield. Mace is a sponsor of the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival Parade and supplies the classic convertibles for the VIPs to ride in.

Kirk Wheeler, the unofficial Route 66 mayor of St. Louis Street, has owned businesses on Route 66 since 2002. One of these is Mother Road Motorcycles, which offers Route 66 travelers a great photo op. Wheeler’s other businesses include Wheeler Auto and Wheeler Work Trucks.

In an effort to enhance the Route 66 experience in Springfield, Wheeler is building a Birthplace of Route 66 Food Truck Park which will offer an 1,800-square-foot-diner to provide patrons indoor seating and a bar. He says “this is my way to give back to the Mother Road, that means so much to me.” He just completed a trip along all of Route 66 to gather ideas for decorating the diner.

Wheeler has been involved in the Birthplace of Route 66 Parade, which started out as a cruise in 2013 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Best Western Rail Haven Motel. During its first two years, the parade started at the Rail Haven, with Wheeler leading it off in an antique 1940s fire truck.

Wheeler serves on the Mother Roadster Foundation Board, which last year built and raffled off a 1932 Ford Roadster at the festival. The foundation donated $40,000 to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children. This year they are raffling a 1929 Ford Model A.

About the Woodruff Award

The John T. Woodruff Award is named for the Springfield businessman and entrepreneur who was one of three men that, in 1926, helped number the new east-to-west highway from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California.

A telegram sent from Woodruff’s Colonial Hotel asking that the numbers for the new highway be named 66, making Springfield, Missouri the Birthplace of Route 66.

Woodruff wanted to see Springfield grow and prosper. He built the city’s first skyscraper, the Woodruff Building. He was responsible for the Frisco Shops – the largest railroad maintenance shops west of the Mississippi River. He convinced the U.S. Army to locate O’Reilly Military Hospital here.

Woodruff saw the value of tourism to Springfield. He built three hotels – the Colonial, the Sansone and the Kentwood Arms – to accommodate the automobile travelers that Route 66 would attract. He was also the first president of the U.S. Highway 66 Association, founded the year after the highway was built.

The John T. Woodruff Award recognizes individuals who have shown outstanding support and interest in promoting Route 66 as the linear national attraction that it is.

Previous Woodruff Award recipients include:

  • Mother’s Brewing Company owner Jeff Schrag (2018);
  • Downtown Springfield Association Executive Director and festival founder Rusty Worley and Robert Gehl, membership director of the Route 66 Association of Missouri (2017);
  • Steak ‘n Shake owner Gary Leonard and past festival car show registrar Shirley Robbins (2016);
  • Route 66 author Susan Croce Kelly, Route 66 Association of Missouri President Tommy Pike, past Show Me Route 66 Magazine Editor Glenda Pike, past festival social media coordinator Jennifer Adams and festival founder David J. Eslick (2015);
  • Elliott Lodging owner Gordon Elliott, past car show registrar Amber Neal and festival founder Jack Stinson (2014);
  • Bud’s Tire & Wheel owner Bud Perry (2013);
  • Gay Parita Sinclair Station owner Gary Turner (2012); and
  • Jim Powell, first president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri and Route 66 author C.H. “Skip” Curtis (2011).

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