Route 66 Drive-In celebrates seven decades of operation; will host open air market in October

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One of the most historic structures on one of our country’s most historic roads is celebrating a milestone — much to the delight of its owners and fans.

“The owners are really cool,” explained Jan Maldonado. “I just like it a lot, I think it’s a great experience.”

Maldonado has been going to drive-in theaters her whole life. While the one in her hometown of Neosho no longer exists, she and her husband have been faithful customers at the Route-66 drive in in Carthage ever since it re-opened. And, they don’t even mind getting in line early so they can get their special spot.

“There is one tree on the parking lot and we like to park underneath that because it keeps anyone else from parking beside us,” Maldonado added. “And it’s just kind of our place and we’re always in the shade when it’s too hot, and we always kind of bring our own food.”

The property had closed down entirely and had also served as a junk yard, but work on restoring it as a drive-in theater began in 1996 and it re-opened for business in 1998.”

Nathan and Amy McDonald came to Carthage from Salem, Missouri, several years ago, and ended up owning the place.

“Moved here in 2006 and became a deputy sheriff, and there’s always a deputy sheriff out here working,” Nathan McDonald explained. “And through that process, I was able and lucky enough to get on the schedule and work out here as security, so once I did that I was kind of ingrained in the drive-in life–the atmosphere, the philosophy, all those kind of things just kind of grew from that.”

The 66 Drive-In is celebrating starting operations seven decades ago. He says it ranked sixth in the US for best best drive-ins, and says it’s the only one of its type still in operation on the Mother Road and plans to keep it going strong long into the future.

“We have a strong crowd and a loyal fan base, we try our best to keep them happy with good movies, cheap concessions, and reasonable admission,” Nathan McDonald added. “It’s a step back in time. I mean, what’s not to love–true Americana at its best.”

You can also do more than just watch movies at the Route 66 Drive-In Theater in Carthage.

Later this month, it will be the site of an open air market. Theater owners say it will be the first event of its kind at the facility. He says it’s a growing trend at drive-in theaters across the country to host similar events.

The Vintage Nostalgic Open Air Market will take place Saturday, October 12th, from 9 am to 4 pm and Sunday, October 13th, from 10 am to 4 pm.

There is a three dollar admission charge. The event will also feature food trucks.

The drive-in is located at 17231 Old 66 Boulevard in Carthage. For more information, you can call (417)359-5959.

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