The Route 66 Rendezvous, held every September in San Bernardino, California, has become an institution in Southern California's Inland Empire. Last year, despite the triple-digit temperatures, every one of the 2,448 participant slots was filled, and more than a half-million spectators showed up over the course of the four-day event. This year's Rendezvous, held the 13-16th, however, almost didn't happen. Some felt that it would be unsafe--and even inappropriate--to go ahead with the event so soon after the horrific events of September 11th. But even the harshest critic would be hard-pressed to say that anything but the right decision was made.
Thursday night's kick-off ceremony started off with a singing of "God Bless America," and the event was officially dedicated to the memory of the victims of the September 11th attacks. In addition, three goals were set forth for the weekend: to lift the spirits of those who attended, to make sure those attendees were all safe, and to help with the relief effort for the attack victims.
On the latter count, helping the relief effort, the Route 66 Rendezvous was very successful. Between the San Bernardino City Fire Department's "Fill the Boot" campaign, the American Red Cross' efforts, and a half-million dollar donation by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, more than $658,000 dollars was raised for the attack victims--an amount that continued to grow even after the event was over. That's what we'd call putting your money where your mouth is!
And as for the goal of lifting the spirits of those who attended, it probably wouldn't be going too far to say that this weekend was just what the doctor ordered. There were fewer registered cars on display and on the cruise route (though 2,108 is still a good draw), but a record 535,000 people filled the streets over the course of the four days. Patriotism was running high, and the Stars & Stripes was very much in evidence, both on people and on vehicles. One spectator explained the attendance boom very eloquently: "I came in spite of the attacks, and even because of them." We couldn't have said it better.
Oh yeah--there were plenty of Bow-Ties on the scene, from Corvette 'glass of all vintages to pre-'73 Chevy iron. The cruising continued well into the night, with spectators standing three-four deep along the cruise route, enjoying food, drink, and live entertainment. It almost had to rally the spirits, seeing thousands celebrate life, while at the same time remembering those who had theirs so horribly taken.