Tuesday, October 28, 2014
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Village of Elkhart cuts the ribbon on a new Route 66/Shirley Temple attraction

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[October 28, 2014]  ELKHART - On Friday afternoon, a group of Elkhart residents gathered outside City Hall at Elkhart to witness the ribbon cutting on the new Route 66 Wayside exhibit.

The exhibit depicts child star Shirley Temple sitting at a table with a waitress passing by carrying a food order that appears to be a hamburger and french fries. The silhouette statue done in heavy steel, gives remembrance to the day that little Miss Temple stopped in Elkhart for lunch after attending a movie premier in Springfield.

The premiere was for Temple’s latest movie “Little Miss Broadway” and the year was 1938. According to the marker placed beside the silhouette, Temple and her entourage stopped at the House by the Side of the Road Café’ and enjoyed a meal. On that day, the young star was very well received by the café owner and graciously agreed to autograph a menu from the café.

After she had left, the owner placed a cardboard likeness of the little girl at the table along with the signed menu and roped it off so it would not be disturbed.

On Friday, Elkhart Village board member and local events liaison Peggy Lee said that the silhouette statue was a very exciting addition to the community. Lee said that in developing the statue she and others from Elkhart worked with a team contracted by the Illinois Route 66 for the statue. She said it was a great experience. She noted that there had been very few problems with the construction, except that when it was first drafted, Temples's hair looked more like Little Orphan Annie than Little Miss Broadway. But that was quickly corrected to make the silhouette as historically accurate as possible.

Before cutting the ribbon, Lee spoke to those in attendance and expressed gratitude to everyone who had been involved in the creation of the exhibit. Those people included the Village of Elkhart for their work in doing the sidewalk in front of the exhibit. Lee said that in order for them to be in compliance with the exhibit, the village needed to create a sidewalk that was handicapped accessible. She also thanked Whitmore’s for the concrete work, US Granite and Marble for the landscaping rock.

In addition, she acknowledged the Federal Highway Administration, the Illinois office of Tourism, and the Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byways for their contributions to the exhibit, and Paul Lee for design work.

Lee said there would be three free showings of the Shirley Temple movie Little Miss Broadway in the main room of City Hall, after the ribbon cut. She expressed gratitude to Jean Phillips and the Elkhart Christian Youth Group, who helped with the cost of the movie and provided the concession stand. The Elkhart Library also provided funding for the movie and a Shirley Temple display set up inside City Hall; she expressed gratitude to the library for their contribution.

More thanks went out to Gwen Rosenfeld who provided the history for the exhibit and to Ann Olson who lent out her projector so the movie could be shown.

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Finally, she said there were several people and organizations that offered financial and other support. She offered thanks to the Elkhart Historical Society, Jo Gehlbach, Dorothy Gleason, Elkhart Needs and Goals, George Yard on behalf of Glen E. Yard, and John P. Williams on behalf of the Williams family trust, and an anonymous donor. She also thanked Lincoln Kroger and Lincoln Wal-Mart.

After Lee had finished speaking, Bill Kelly of Illinois Route 66 Scenic Byway spoke briefly. He noted that the project to place similar silhouettes throughout the state of Illinois began in 2011. Kelly said that altogether there would be nine such wayside exhibits depicting different stories tied to Route 66. He said these are of great value to motorists touring Route 66 because the exhibits tell the stories of the Mother Road. He said the draw of the iconic highway is that there are so many stories to tell, and that is what tourists what to learn about.

He also noted that Elkhart is the only one of the nine that features a movie star.

Bob Albert was on hand representing the Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce. He spoke briefly congratulating the town on its new tourist attraction. He then presented the scissors to Elkhart Mayor Lyle Fout who snipped the ribbon.

When the ceremony was finished, everyone was invited inside to view the movie.

Beside the statue is a Route 66 byways display that features information about Temple, the movie, the café where she ate, as well as Ward’s Gas Station, and the Tierney Shell Station and roof top garden.

For those who may be unfamiliar with Elkhart, City Hall is located at the far end of the business district, just two blocks or so from Elkhart Hill.

[Nila Smith]

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