FRANKLIN, Kans. — The Jefferson Highway has been connecting communities across the U.S. and Canada for more than 100 years, including our Four States.

This week marks an annual celebration to reflect on the highway’s history, and also where it’s going in the future.

Grape juice, milk, and water were used to christen the highway in a re-dedication ceremony

“Everyone seems to know Route 66 which goes East and West. They’re trying to make this North and South route of Jefferson Highway a tourist attraction just as Route 66,” said Phyllis Bitner, Miner’s Hall Museum Foundation Trustee.

The Jefferson Highway Annual Conference is underway once again in Pittsburg, Kansas.

“First one we’ve had since 2019, so we’re very excited to be here. We have representatives here from every state on the Jefferson Highway,” said Roger Bell, Jefferson Highway Association President.

On Thursday, the national bus tour stopped in Franklin to take part in a piece of living history. A recreation of the highway’s dedication which originally took place in 1923.

“It’s so much fun. And to have the three young girls, that was what they had back then was three young girls, that broke the bottle and we love that it was milk and grape juice and water because they were too young to christen it with a bottle of champagne or moonshine. So, we’re hoping in the future that people will read about what has happened here and they’ll go ‘Wow! I’d like to travel that highway also,'” said Phyllis Bitner, Miner’s Hall Museum Foundation Trustee.

“It’s an opportunity for us to meet people along the way, and learn a little bit more about each of the different communities that we see. It just adds depth to our experience,” said Mike Curtis, Johnson City Resident.

Building on the ongoing effort to preserve the 107-year-old highway and its history.

“Heritage tourism in the country is growing in fascination, internationally. People come from across the world to go to Route 66. But we have a lot of momentum on our highway to make this a tourist highway,” said Roger Bell, Jefferson Highway Association President.

The conference will conclude on Saturday with a parade of cars through downtown Pittsburg, Franklin, and Arma.