State Sen. Harry Coates says the new Disney and Pixar film “Cars” could be a real boon for tourism in Oklahoma. That’s because one of the main characters in the film is based on a constituent in his district and her Route 66 Rock Café in Stroud.
“I’ve known Dawn Welch for many years and she’s a huge promoter for Stroud, Route 66 and our entire state,” said Coates, R-Seminole. “It’s a windfall for all of Oklahoma that Disney and Pixar decided to make a movie about Route 66.”
When the film makers were researching Route 66, they visited Welch’s restaurant, ordered one of everything on the menu and asked her to sit and talk to them about her life, the café and Route 66. She then became the inspiration for Sally, the blue Porsche. Welch said she and Sally obviously have a lot in common.
“The fact that I get so excited about trying to promote my town, the fact that I’m really enthusiastic about Route 66 and the history of the actual road and me trying to explain to people why it’s important to keep the road alive,” Welch said, were all common traits she shared with the character of Sally.
Welch said that business in her café is up by about 40 percent because of the movie. Coates says the state needs to take advantage of all interest the movie is generating in Route 66.
“We have an opportunity here to really highlight Oklahoma, bring people to Oklahoma, provide attractions for tourists not only from the U.S. but from around the world that want to come and see Route 66, see some of the places that are depicted in the movie, particularly see and meet Sally, a.k.a. Dawn Welch, in Stroud at the Rock Café and get a taste of what Route 66 is like,” Coates said. “Those tourist dollars are dollars that stay in Oklahoma.
Welch said while she has traditionally geared her marketing toward Baby Boomers who have nostalgic interest in Route 66, “Cars” has opened up an entire new market—children who’ve seen the movie and want to come to her restaurant.
Coates predicted the movie could boost the local economy in ways beyond tourism.
“I think the movie is about slowing down, by reminding us of a less hectic way of life. Perhaps some of those tourists who visit us because of the film will realize they can still have that kind of lifestyle here, and maybe even decide to make Oklahoma their home.”
In the meantime, Welch is signing autographs in the café, happy that business is up and happy that because of the movie, children are learning something about the history of Route 66 and America.