The Red Carpet Corridor Festival returns to Illinois’ Route 66 – expanding to feature festivities in 14 historic communities over the course of two days, Saturday and Sunday, May 6 and 7. This popular fan-favorite celebration, now marking its 16th anniversary, will bring free, family-friendly events to Joliet, Elwood, Wilmington, Braidwood, Godley, Braceville, Gardner, Dwight, Odell, Pontiac, Chenoa, Lexington, Normal and Bloomington.
Sponsored by these 14 communities, with assistance from Heritage Corridor Destinations, Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway, Illinois Office of Tourism and Route 66 Association of Illinois, the annual festival invites everyone to experience life in the slow lane, and savor the sights of historic Route 66. Each community has produced a one-of-a-kind lineup of events, from full-fledged festivals to antique and craft sales, art sales, car and motorcycle shows and live music. The festival is also the unofficial kickoff to garage sale season along The First Hundred Miles of Route 66, so you’ll spot plenty of yard, garage and sidewalk sales on the route.
Along the way, you’ll find plenty of places to stop for food, snacks and treats, and many historic sites, free museums and unique mom-and-pop businesses offering extended hours and complimentary tours. Travelers are free to soak in the sights from the comfort of their cars, or stop and explore these picturesque, small communities – all dotted with unusual roadside attractions and memorable photo ops. Dubbed a linear museum, the scenic stretch of Route 66 from Joliet to Bloomington is lined with interpretive signs and historic stopping points that will transport you back in time to the heyday of the Mother Road.
The 2023 Red Carpet Corridor Festival will feature free admission to the Joliet Area Historical Museum, open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The Old Joliet Prison also will be open for self-guided tours, starting at 8 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. Various car clubs will visit, parking cars at the museum and the prison throughout the day, giving guests an up-close look at these meticulously restored classic automobiles.
An antique tractor exhibit will be open to tour in Elwood from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, at the corner of Mississippi Avenue and Douglas Street. While you’re there, be sure to stop and see Elwood’s original section of Route 66 pavement. Wilmington will host a flea market, free live music, a dance contest and a food truck. In Braidwood, you’ll find an information booth at the folk art attraction – Route 66 Zoo – along with a selection of local vendors. Stop at the Braidwood Museum on Main Street to see its Route 66 exhibit and the nearby Polk-A-Dot Drive In for a classic car show. Tours of Godley’s Route 66 mining museum will be offered free of charge, while Braceville will hold a junk-in-the-trunk sale.
Gardner will present a meet-and-greet event with the mayor at the village’s famed Two-Cell Jail historic attraction, while the Gardner Lions Club serves freshly made root beer floats from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and pork chop sandwiches from 10 a.m. until they’re gone at the historic Street Car Diner. Gardner also hosts garage sales, a craft show (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday) and a car show (10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday). Elvis tribute artist Hugo will perform from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Gardner’s gazebo.
In the classic Route 66 town of Dwight, you’ll be treated to free tours of the historic Texaco Station all weekend long, along with town-wide garage sales and the Route 66 BBQ Smokeout – a Kansas City Barbecue-sanctioned event held on Friday and Saturday.
You’ll also find nostalgic souvenirs for sale at Odell’s Historic 1932 Standard Oil Station, the annual Swinging Bridges Fine Arts Festival in Pontiac (a can’t-miss event where dozens of artists will sell their beautiful fine art pieces, complemented by free live music, art demonstrations and food trucks), garage sales in Chenoa, and local craft beer, free live music and boutique shopping in Lexington.
New for the 2023 Red Carpet Corridor Festival, Bloomington and Normal also will host Route 66-themed activities. In Normal, take a tour of Ryburn Place at Sprague’s Super Service. This 1930s gas station, garage and café, with living quarters above, is a restored Tudor-style building, with a photo op and replica gas pumps. In Bloomington, explore the city’s ample boutique shopping and dining destinations before paying a visit to the Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center.
Looking to score some Route 66 giveaways during the Red Carpet Corridor Festival? Be sure to download the Illinois Route 66 mobile app by searching Explore Illinois Route 66 in the App Store or on Google Play. Once you’re logged into the app, you’ll have an opportunity to click on Passports, and participate in a mobile check-in challenge. Check in via the app at all 14 locations, and you will be entered to win a Route 66 prize package worth over $250.
For a full itinerary of events, visit www.ilroute66redcarpetcorridor.com.