Skip to main content
Bloomington-Normal, Illinois
Lincoln's Festival on Route 66

Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66

Date & Time
Friday, July 14, 2017 - Sunday, July 16, 2017
All Day
(309) 824-8862
Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66

The new Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66:“Trails, Rails, & Roads”, takes place Friday, July 14 through Sunday July 16 this year.  Weekend festival activities will include living history performances, a car show and cruise-ins for car enthusiasts, period crafts for children, Civil War skirmishes and cavalry encampment. Enjoy a historic walking tour, a vintage bicycle display, plus speakers and musicians, including the Cornerstones of Rock concert, and a showing of the movie “Cars” at the Bloomington Center for Performing Arts.

The Museum will be hosting a variety of activities on all three days of the festival this year. The family friendly activities begin on Friday, July 14 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. with Encounters with Lincoln’s Bloomington, celebrating McLean County’s ties to both Lincoln and Route 66 through living history encounters with individuals who lived, worked and traveled through our landscape in different eras. From Lincoln’s day to the present, people have been on the move for various reasons. Hear the stories of women and people of color seeking better lives, and discover how local communities changed as the railroad and the highway transformed McLean County. Members of the Historic Acting Troupe will portray men and women whose experiences provide a travelogue that spans the generations and the miles, highlighting sights, sounds and ideas that echoed throughout the nation. Performances will be held inside the Museum and several other locations in Downtown Bloomington. The Museum will serve as the starting point, and visitors are encouraged to arrive no later than 6 p.m. in order to see the entire presentation. Performances will begin every 20 minutes with the last performance at 7:40 p.m.

Museum activities will continue on Saturday, July 15 beginning at 9:00 a.m. with the self-guided “Looking for Lincoln” scavenger hunt that will take visitors to various historic locations around Bloomington-Normal associated with Abraham Lincoln.  This is a great activity for families and those who bring the completed scavenger hunt back to the Museum will receive a prize! The scavenger hunt will continue on Sunday, July 16 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

From 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., back by popular demand will be the So you think you know Lincoln trivia game! Contestants can test their knowledge about our 16th President of the United States by taking a spin on our trivia wheel. New trivia feature this year will be our brand new Kicking it on Route 66 trivia game. This activity will test participants’ knowledge about the entire Route 66. Bring the whole family to test your knowledge.  Prizes awarded for correct answers! Trivia will continue on Sunday, July 16 from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

10:00 a.m., the Museum’s Executive Director, Greg Koos, will lead the highly popular walking tour of Lincoln sites in Downtown Bloomington.  The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and participants will be able to gain unique insight into Lincoln, his friends and associates in Bloomington, and about the town where he spent more time than any other place outside of Springfield.  Those interested in joining this tour must meet inside the Museum’s Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center, located on the ground floor of the Museum.

1:00 p.m. in the second floor Governor Fifer Courtroom local historians Mike Matejka and Terri Ryburn will present Pioneer Pathway: Route 66 through McLean County. Drawing that straight line from Chicago to St Louis takes one right through McLean County and Bloomington.  From the 1850s railroad construction to the early “hard road” days, the Route 66 railroad and highway corridor is a critical transportation link. Participants will go back in time to see how the railroad and then Route 66 affected our local community and its development. Mike Matejka is a Museum board member, past President, and is currently writing scripts for the Museum’s next permanent exhibit Challenges Choices and Change: Working for a Living.  He is also the Governmental Affairs Director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council. Terri Ryburn wrote her doctoral dissertation about Route 66.  She retired from Illinois State University to restore an important 1930s Route 66 icon:  Sprague’s Super Service on Pine Street now owned by the Town of Normal.  Terri has opened Ryburn Place (a visitor center and gift shop) there.

2:30 p.m. in the Governor Fifer Courtroom, the Museum is pleased to welcome Dr. James Cornelius, curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, who will present the program Lincoln in History, Fiction, and Film.

Most of us have seen or read about Lincoln portrayed in fiction—movies, plays, novels, etc.  Cornelius’s illustrated program will touch on the highlights, and lowlights, ranging from Thomas Edison to Steven Spielberg, from McLean County’s own Wilson Tucker (a sci-fi Lincoln of 1958) to the hated-novel of 2016; to vampires and other “alt-uses” of Lincoln as a fictional character. This program is suitable for the whole family! James Cornelius is a native of Minneapolis. He earned a B.A. from Lawrence University in Wisconsin and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After working as an editor in New York City for 10 years and eight years in the University of Illinois Library’s collections of Lincoln and Illinois history, he began his career at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield in 2007. He has written or edited several books, mainly on American and British history, especially on Lincoln. Most recently, Cornelius co-authored Under Lincoln’s Hat: 100 Objects that Tell the Story of His Life and Legacy in 2016.

1:00 p.m. on Sunday, July 16 in the Governor Fifer Courtroom, the Museum’s Executive Director Emeritus Greg Koos will present Grids: Travel in a Prairie Place. This program will explore the development of a central Illinois road system that ranged from dirt right of ways, smoothed with wood drags, to the four-lane Route 66 with its one hundred mile an hour curves, to the information highway!

Keep an eye out for Mr. Lincoln who will be visiting the Museum during the festival too. He will be available to meet visitors and even do a photo or two.

Do not forget to visit the Cruisin’ with Lincoln on 66 Visitors Center located on the ground floor of the Museum. You can explore our exhibit to learn what traveling in Lincoln’s era was like and about Route 66 in McLean County! You can also pick up many local favorites like Beer Nuts, Funks Pure Maple Sirup, Steak ‘n Shake, great local history books, and of course books and souvenirs about Abraham Lincoln!

For more information about any of the activities and programs occurring at the Museum during Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66, please contact the Education Department at

The Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66 is an Illinois Route 66 Red, White, and Blue Corridor signature event and is a proud partner in the 42-county Looking for Lincoln Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. For more information about any of the activities and programs occurring at the Museum during Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66, please contact the Education Department at

Other locations participating in the festival include Downtown Bloomington, McLean County Museum of History/Cruisin’ with Lincoln on Route 66 Visitors Center, Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts, Franklin Park, Bloomington Public Library, David Davis Mansion State Historic Site, and Illinois Wesleyan University.

Some events are ticketed events. For more information about Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66, please visit