By Dave Gragg
TUCUMCARI — The countdown ends today for the second annual International Roadie Gathering in Tucumcari.
While the event features celebrities such as Martin Milner and Michael Wallace, the real guests of honor are the more than 1,500 people the gathering is expected to draw.
This Roadie gathering is sponsored by the International Route 66 Magazine and coincides with Tucumcari’s third annual Route 66 Celebration.
According to magazine Managing Editor Bob Moore, 3,000 people attended last year’s celebration in Vega, Texas. “Vega is a tiny town, about 900 people,” he said in April. “And we just overwhelmed them.”
Moore credits himself with coining the term “Roadies” for Route 66 aficionados in his first book, “The Illustrated Guidebook of the Mother Road.”
Tucumcari began its Route 66 celebration in 2001 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the famed “Mother Road.”
This week’s events start tonight with a trail ride through Trails West bar. “We’re bringing back something that happened years ago when Tucumcari was a little more ‘cowboy,’” said Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Virginia Wright.
It was a mark of honor for cowboys to ride their horses through a bar, and the Trails West owners have volunteered their establishment to continue the tradition.
The next night is a car cruise and poker run that will end at the Tucumcari High School Auditorium.
The poker run sends contestants to different parks in the city to pick up a playing card. The one with the best hand wins.
After the cruise, the drama department of Northern Arizona University presents “Route 66: Celebrating America’s Main Street.”
This is the first on-the-road performance of the play, which will then travel along the route doing shows.
The two-act play focuses on how Route 66 helped shape the country and its people. After the play there will be a silent auction of Route 66 merchandise.
Saturday has the most activities, starting with a parade from Kmart to the Tucumcari Convention Center.
Marty Milner, star of the 1960s TV series “Route 66,” will lead the parade down Tucumcari’s Route 66 Boulevard.
After the parade, the Tucumcari Rotary Club will sponsor a car show. According to organizer Elmer Schuster, the club has 20 cars registered so far. Although the number is down from this time last year, Schuster is expecting most people will register after the parade.
“We usually have a lot drive in to run in the parade and then go to register,” he said. There will be 12 classes, with three big trophies per class, plus the long-distance award, best engine, best paint and people’s choice award.
“We already have one from Arizona and one from Florida signed up,” he said.
TeamBuilders will have a number of activities for kids, and there will be a no-charge writer’s seminar featuring 11 published writers offering writing pointers.
Among the writers will be Michael Wallis, the Pulitzer-Prize nominated author of “Route 66: the Mother Road.”
Wright said so many vendors — more than 60 — planned to come they were out of places to put them.
“There’s everything from ‘automobilia’ and Route 66 pins and memorabilia, a lot of writers selling books on Route 66 to artists,” she said.
The Tucumcari Kiwanis Club is also hosting a ranch rodeo from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Quay County Fairgrounds followed by a sanctioned ranch horse show. On Sunday, there will be a free barbecue with the purchase of a rodeo ticket.
Tucumcari resident Bob Peterson will show off his championship tumbler pigeons at 2:30 p.m. and the “Fire Hazard Thrill Show” will perform at 4:30 p.m.
As part of the act, Roswell native Wil Albarez will start by juggling wooden Indian clubs and get more outrageous from there.
Another Tucumcari resident, “Crazy” Charlie Crossley, will offer monster van rides during the day and crush a car at 5:30 p.m.
The highlight of Saturday’s activities will be an awards banquet and silent auction at the Convention Center from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Representatives of the International Route 66 Magazine will read the winning entries of the writing contest held earlier this year. Those entries will also be printed in the magazine.
After the banquet is another silent auction and a western dance featuring bands Young Country from Tucumcari and Quick Draw from Amarillo.
Many acts will be repeated on Sunday, including the kids’ activities, tumbling pigeons and fire hazard.
Sunday will also be the third annual Senior Olympic with seniors taking on elected officials.
The seniors have handily won the last two years, due at least in part to the overwhelming response from seniors and relatively few elected officials.
This year’s competition will allow officials to have their staff on their team.