Route 66: A History

Promoting the Road

Cyrus Avery and John T. Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri formed the U.S. 66 Highway Association in 1927 to advocate for the newly commissioned route. The association placed ads in magazines, distributed souvenirs to encourage tourism, and, in 1928, sponsored an "International Transcontinental Footrace," the first of many promotional stunts to occur along Route 66. Nicknamed "the Bunion Derby" by journalists, the race boasted a $25,000 grand prize and managed to attract 300 participants and as many as 50,000 spectators at the Los Angeles starting line. By the time the 55 remaining runners limped into New York, Andy Payne, a farmer and member of the Cherokee Nation from Oklahoma, had emerged as the unexpected winner. Event promoter C.C. Pyle lost thousands of dollars in the venture, but the race succeeded in drawing national attention to Route 66, giving it a permanent place in the public consciousness.

Andy Payne, winner of the 1928 Trans-Continental Foot Race, runs along Route 66 near Flagstaff.

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