The Old Trails Museum offers its free 2024 History Highlight on Saturday, April 20, at 2 pm in the La Posada Hotel Ballroom, 303 East Second Street. Retired archaeologist Neil Weintraub will present Footsteps from the Past: Retracing the Epic 1928 Route 66, 3,400-Mile Bunion Derby Footrace Across Northern Arizona, followed by a question-and-answer session.
On March 4, 1928, 199 of the world’s greatest long-distance runners from 24 countries lined up on a muddy track in Los Angeles to embark on an 84-day, 3,400-mile stage race across the United States, lured by a $25,000 first prize. The US Highway 66 Association paid promoter Charles C. Pyle to coordinate the transcontinental race, in order to bring attention to improvements in the new route that had just been designated in 1926.
After experiencing harsh weather and injuries, 99 runners dropped out before they reached Williams on March 16, and only 55 runners crossed the finish line in New York City on May 25. Sponsored by the Hubble Trading Post in Winslow, Hopi runner Nicholas Quamawahu was one of the race favorites but was forced to withdraw with a heel injury east of Seligman. Using newspaper accounts and photographs, Weintraub will focus on the days the runners passed through northern Arizona – including Winslow – and will point out nearby places that attendees can visit to retrace the footsteps of these intrepid runners.
In 2020, Weintraub retired from a 33-year archaeology career with the US Forest Service, mostly as the South Kaibab Zone Archaeologist based in Flagstaff. His accolades include the 2020 Professional Archaeologist of the Year from the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office and Arizona Preservation Foundation, 2019 Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Award, and Arizona Daily Sun’s Citizen of the Year in 2016. His volunteer endeavors include Big Brothers Big Sisters of Flagstaff, the Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association, the Willow Bend Environmental Education Center, and the northern Arizona division of Arizona State Parks’ Arizona Site Stewards program.