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"Make Route 66 Weird" to Lure Tourists?

Matt Trotter

Picture this: A huge mermaid, crafted out of vintage car and motorcycle parts and glass, strumming a guitar and overlooking Tulsa’s stretch of Route 66.

It might be the first step in drawing tourists by making Tulsa weird.

Soul City owner Amy Smith plans to install the mermaid on the 11th Street business. The Route 66 Commission invited her to tell them about it. Smith said Route 66 in Tulsa is missing attractions and oddities people are interested in.

"Most of our art right now is very ordered. You know, we have some beautiful bronzes and different sculptures, but we don’t have the weirdness," Smith said.

Smith said a European tourist came all the way to Tulsa to see Soul City’s mural of musician JJ Cale and photographed it for three hours, even while it’s being repaired.

Route 66 Commission Vice Chair Rhys Martin said they could help connect artists with businesses and help businesses coordinate art projects like the mermaid so they complement each other.

"Because when people are planning their trips, they’re going to have a lot of things already in mind, and if it’s all close together and they can get from A to B to C easily, then they’ll make a stop at every one of those places," Martin said.

City Council Chair David Patrick is on the Route 66 Commission and said Tulsa needs attractions akin to the Blue Whale or the Cadillac Ranch.

"It will be a major draw. That’s what brings people in on Route 66 to stay in Tulsa, so, you know, I think it’s a great idea that we get behind this and actually, really, check into it and see if we can’t make that happen," Patrick said.

Patrick expects the five councilors on the commission would support reasonable zoning exceptions needed for eye-catching attractions and oddities.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.