July 21, 2024

2023 Jefferson Highway Sociability Caravan through Iowa to be historic event

Iowa’s Jefferson Highway Heritage Byway will be the pathway for a caravan of travelers from across the United States for three days from Monday June 5th to Wednesday June 7th. Over the three days, the national Jefferson Highway Association will be hosting a special caravan event that will recreate similar caravans from Iowa’s past. Participants will drive their own vehicles and explore the historic route in Iowa together from its southern boundary at Lamoni all the way to the site of the group’s 2023 national conference in Mason City.

The Jefferson Highway was one of the earliest auto-trails or highways built across the United States.The route was organized in 1915 and built from Winnipeg, Canada to New Orleans, Louisiana over approximately 2,300 miles. The route is widely considered to be the first north-south International Highway across America and was principally built by communities and county volunteers.Des Moines’ businessman Edwin Meredith was the principal creator of the route and served as its first President.

After the routing was fully determined, the organization began planning”Sociability Runs” or caravans to promote the highway.These caravans were often filled with political figures and dignitaries who traveled across the entire route together from “Pine to Palm”(promotional slogan for the route).Locals and community supporters would join in as the caravan approached their locations.Schools were often let out and businesses would close to greet the caravan as it entered each community.

One of the largest of these historic events occurred in 1919.During this caravan, the Governor of Louisiana and the Mayor of New Orleans were some of the principal participants and gave speeches at each stop along their trip.The upcoming caravan will include elements of the Iowa portion of this historic Sociability Run in its programming and activities. .

The 2023 event will officially begin on the evening of Sunday, June 4th in Lamoni with a special community welcoming event for participants.The Caravan group will then start their journey together on the morning of Monday, June 5th in Lamoni’s historic downtown. The group will then follow the Iowa Jefferson Highway Heritage Byway together across Iowa over three event-filled days to see historic locations, participate in activities and to promote the route in Iowa as a tourism corridor.

The group will eventually arrive in Mason City Iowa on the afternoon of Wednesday, June 7th where the annual conference will begin at the Historic Park Inn hotel, which was designed by architect Frank Llloyd Wright.The conference will include attendees from over 14 states and have events such as a bus tour into Minnesota, historical speakers, a banquet and other events.

Special activities and events planned during the caravan drive include special signage dedications, a caravan photography contest, a caravan passport for community stamps, car decoration contests and some great community events. Souvenirs and guidebooks will be available for purchase on each day of the caravan.

Though many of the attendees, will be members of the Jefferson Highway Association and will be from out of state, the group is encouraging local and area participation in the caravan for a portion of the journey or the entire route through Iowa. Guest participants will be welcomed at official stops of the caravan trip.

Modern and Classic cars both will be welcomed to participate and on some days Iowa Car clubs and enthusiasts will join for portions of the drive. Official lodging for overnight stays includes the Cobblestone Inn in Lamoni, the Des Lux Hotel in Des Moines and the AmericInn in Iowa Falls.

There is not an official registration fee to join the caravan, but registration is important and all drivers will be asked to sign a waiver of liability document for participation. For full information or registration, please send an email to info@jeffersonhighway.org. Additional information including a video is available on the organizations website at www.jeffersonhighway.org.

Condensed Schedule for Sociability Caravan (All items and times are subject to change)

Sunday June 4th

Lamoni Iowa:

5:30 pm – Wreath laying ceremony for Jefferson Highway Pioneer W.A. Hopkins

6:30 pm – Ice Cream Social at Lamoni’s Liberty Hall to be hosted by Lamoni Chamber of Commerce

Designated Caravan Lodging in Lamoni – Cobblestone Inn -

Monday June 5th

Morning Sendoff from Lamoni Officials – Stop in Davis City – Community Event with Entertainment in Leon - Sign Dedications and Jefferson Highway Picnic on the Square in Osceola - Sign Dedications and Stop in Indianola - Tour of Iowa State Capitol – Wreath Laying on Grave of Highway Founder Edwin Meredith

Designated Caravan Lodging - Des LuxHotel – Des Moines

*Hotel is former Des Moines Club and was host location for the 1919 Jefferson Highway Sociability Run.

Tuesday, June 6th

Leave Des Moines - Vintage Car Group will escort group to Ankeny – Ankeny Historical Museum Stop - Stops in Elkhartand Cambridge– Special Welcoming Program and Lunch in Nevada, Iowa -Stop at Historic Reed-Niland Corner (Crossroads of the Lincoln and Jefferson Highways) in Colo–Stops in Zearing and Hubbard – Community Sponsored Evening Activities in Iowa Falls

Designated Caravan Lodging – AmericInn – Iowa Falls

Wednesday, June 7th

Community Morning Sendoff from Iowa Falls –Stop in Hampton to include historic Windsor Theatre-Lunch at Block 10 restaurant in Sheffield (site of former tourist camp building) – Stop at Rockwell at historic gas station – Tour of Surf Ballroomin Clear Lake - End Tour at historic park location in Mason City

Further information on the Jefferson Highway Heritage Byway in Iowa can be obtained here:

Iowa’s Byways-Jefferson Highway (iowadot.gov)

History of the Interstate Trail, Jefferson Highway and Jefferson Association - Iowa DOT