ATLANTA — As a member of the Atlanta Betterment Fund, businessman Bill Thomas is a firm believer in holding brainstorming sessions and discussing ideas that could generate positive feedback for the Logan County community.
And almost always, Thomas said, the town’s connection to Route 66 tends to be the focus.
“We often take an idea, incorporate other ideas from projects that have worked either here or someplace else, and come up with a plan,” Thomas said.
The newest plan is based on Chicago’s “Cows on Parade” exhibit, a 1999 idea in which local artists, architects, photographers and designers painted, decorated and dressed up fiberglass cow statues and then displayed them around the city for several months.
The first “Route 66 Reinterpreted” project will encourage artists to create their own take on the U.S. Route 66 Highway Shield. Each will be provided a blank 2- by 2-foot wooden cutout of the shield, painted white, which will become their personal canvas.
The only requirement is to incorporate the text “Illinois U.S. 66” somewhere on the face of the shield. The signs will be put on permanent display along the route.
“It is just a great way to get people to visit our town and see something different,” said Atlanta resident Dale Colaw, a member of the Atlanta Betterment Fund board of directors. “It reminds me of the old Burma Shave signs we had out near the entrances to town which we had local artists do, but now those are so damaged and they don’t resemble what they once were.”
The project is open to anyone over age 16 and Thomas said up to 50 entries will be accepted. All entries will be displayed along Route 66 in downtown Atlanta from May through Aug. 31.
“This is a great way to bring national attention to Route 66,” said Geoff Ladd, President of the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway. “Stay tuned for this because once it is done, there will be big celebration and we will have some beautiful art to showcase when we do.”
The Atlanta Betterment Fund board will select 10 shields as finalists and the public can vote at selected Route 66 attractions or at www.atlantaillinois.org. Five winning shields, along with the names of the artists who created them, will be displayed permanently in the Atlanta Route 66 Park.
Completed applications, including a $25 entry fee, are due Feb. 1. More information is at www.atlantaillinois.org.