A catchy little tune about getting your kicks on Route 66 gave Kingman

an international name recognition that is the envy of communities large and small. Incredibly this popularity wasn’t enough to transform the dusty little Arizona crossroads into a destination back in 1946 or even in 1996. Neither was the diverse array of area attractions that included the Grand Canyon, the only road to the bottom of that chasm, Grand Canyon Caverns, or Hualapai Mountain Park. Kingman remained a stop on the way to somewhere else, just as it was back in 1915 when Edsel Ford and a few thousand travelers headed for California and the Panama Pacific Exhibition on the National Old Trails Road.

A livery stable turned rental car agency circa 1910. Historic photos courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts.

With the exception of a weekend or two a year, Kingman remained a stop on the way to someplace else until 2014. Fast forward to 2017. A renaissance is sweeping the historic business district and along the Route 66 corridor. Eclectic shops, microbreweries, and restaurants are becoming destinations for travelers and residents of neighboring communities. The Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona , in partnership with property owners and Legacy Signs, is adding color and vibrancy with murals, public art projects, and restored neon signage. Grassroots initiatives such as the Kingman Progressive Alliance for Positive Change and Promote Kingman are building a sense of community and community purpose as they find innovative ways to build partnerships, welcome visitors, and spread the word about Kingman being an overlooked destination. 

Educational initiatives play a large part in this transformation. On July 12, Promote Kingman in limited partnership with the Garlic Clove and Grand Event Center will be hosting a masterclass to provide the tools needed for a business or organization to develop effective and cost efficient marketing in the modern era. Promoted through the Promote Bullhead and Promote Havasu, as well as Promote Kingman initiatives promotion of the class has generated tremendous interest. 

Another educational initiative developed by Promote Kingman that has had a surprising reach and popularity was the introduction of historic district walking tours led by author and historian Jim Hinckley. Utilizing historic images provided by the Mohave Museum of History & Arts, the illustrated tours foster an awareness of the city’s rich and colorful history, and have contributed to the community becoming a destination. On a recent tour people traveled from as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada to enjoy a neon night adventure.

The success of the Promote Kingman initiative, and linked Promote Bullhead, Promote Havasu, and Promote Route 66 programs in the development of innovative community building projects, and the opportunities it provides business owners who take advantage of the various available partnership programs is garnering attention beyond Kingman. In July, Jim Hinckley will be speaking about the initiative, and tourism as a component in economic development in Tucumcari, New Mexico. He will also be speaking on these subjects at the Miles of Possibilities Conference in Joliet, Illinois this fall.

Kingman is on the fast track to becoming a destination, and an inspiration. It is also about to become a template for successful community development and revitalization.