Tourism boosters are making plans to dress up Joliet for the centennial anniversary of Route 66 in 2026.
The historic highway, that is a tourist destination in itself, passes through Joliet and other towns in Will County.
The Joliet City Council in July voted to loan $484,500 to the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau so it could get started on centennial projects planned for Joliet while waiting for grant money to arrive.
The Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau has been awarded $1.5 million under the Route 66 Grant Program but the money will not arrive until later this year, said Greg Peerbolte, vice chairman for the bureau’s board of directors.
Peerbolte said the local tourism bureau could position itself for additional grant funding for the centennial “when the state sees we move nice and quickly and get things wrapped up.”
Peerbolte said the Route 66 centennial is getting attention from state and national tourism bureaus.
The money provided by Joliet will only be used for centennial projects planned inside Joliet, Peerbolte said.
Peerbolte also is executive director of the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which is the site of two of the centennial projects.
The projects and grants in Joliet include:
• A revamped Route 66 Welcome Center at the Joliet Area Historical Museum
• New exhibits at the Joliet Area Historical Museum designed for Route 66 travelers and called “Fuel the Future,” a look at the highway’s past and future; “Joliet: Prison City” focusing on the Old Joliet Prison, and “Joliet Champion Gallery” about home town accomplishments
• A mural on the Scott Street wall of the Rialto Square Theatre that will commemorate both the 100th anniversary of the Rialto and Route 66
• A new exterior sign for the Illinois Rock and Roll Museum on Route 66
• Two new Route 66 sculptures, like the one outside the Joliet Area Historical Museum, to be placed at other locations in the city
The city loan requires that the money be paid back when the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau receives the grants.