A banner on the Webster County Courthouse will welcome meat-lovers to the Marshfield square this Saturday.

Meat lovers and Mother Road aficionados will converge Saturday at the Marshfield square for the first-ever Carnivor Festival.

The event features grilling competitions, musical acts, a cruise-in and more, and admission is free.

Randy Clair is one of the organizers of the event through his role as vice president of the sponsoring organization, the Webster County/Marshfield Route 66 Initiative. He said he expects big things.

"If we can have a good turnout and a successful year, we truly think in three years from now this will be one of the largest festivals in southwest Missouri," he said.

Added Clair, "The hype generated so far has superseded anything else I’ve been involved in."

The appeal of the event is its simplicity, according to Clair — it’s all about music, meat, the Mother Road, Route 66. "It’s simplicity at its best," he said.

The Route 66 Initiative is hoping, ultimately, to lure travelers to linger a bit in Marshfield.

"The real purpose for doing this is that according to statistics there are 3,000 cars a month on average that travel Route 66 with tourists, but when they hit Webster County, it makes no difference if they’re coming from east or west, the only retail business district they see is from Price Cutter to Singer Auto Parts," Clair said.

If the Route 66 Initiative has its way, those travelers will be diverted into the heart of the city.

Clair explained that when Route 66 started in 1926, Marshfield consisted mostly of the courthouse square, and Route 66 bypassed it. There was one gas station between Lebanon and Springfield on the route, and it was in the Webster County seat.

“In 1941 at some point in time, the city realized they had all this traffic on Route 66 and nothing coming downtown — they were going right by — so the city petitioned the transportation department and asked for an official alternate route," Clair said.

That request was granted, creating an alternate route that went around the courthouse square. Coming from the golf course, that route went south on Pine to Washington, then right on Washington to the square, which it went around, letting off at South Crittenden, then hitting a four-way stop onto Jackson Street, which it followed down to the old Route 66.

The route is called the City Route of Missouri U.S. 66, and the Route 66 Initiative group seeks to mark that route and attract Route 66 enthusiasts to explore it. The City of Marshfield is willing, and the state Route 66 association has agreed to include the route on future maps, but the Webster County/Marshfield Route 66 Initiative must raise the money for signage and other expenses. That’s where the Carnivor Festival comes in.

Clair said that those Route 66 travelers have deep pockets. Some fly from Europe, buy classic cars or rent motorcycles in Chicago, and drive all the way to California. "We’re just sitting here twiddling our thumbs,” Clair said. “We want those tax dollars for our community."

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