"My father never dreamt he would establish a restaurant that would last for 95 years," said Nick Adam, at a special relighting ceremony at the historic Ariston Cafe in Litchfield. "We're very proud of what he's done. Thank you all for the support. Enjoy the lights. I'm thrilled they are back on."
Local residents and Route 66 enthusiasts gathered at the Ariston for the ceremony on Saturday evening, May 4, to watch the historic neon signs relit.
Jim Thole, chairman of the Neon Preservation Committee of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, served as master of ceremonies for the special event. He said it was the second sign the group had helped to restore in Litchfield since its inception in 2006. Six years ago, they officially relit the Vic Suhling Gas for Less sign at the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, just across the street from the restaurant.
This is the 13th sign the group has helped to restore along Route 66.
"About 18 months ago, Nick approached me about helping to restore the signs," Thole said. "And we jumped at that opportunity on such a historic building."
At the start of the ceremony, members of the Color Guard raised the American flag at the Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, while Litchfield resident Vickie Lovellette sang the national anthem. Organizers also recognized all veterans and active duty military in attendance that evening.
Rich Dinkela, president of the Route 66 Association of Missouri, said the Ariston has always been one of his favorite places along Route 66.
"The Ariston has been here since before Route 66," Dinkela said. "It's a testament to show that when you have passion and drive you can conquer anything."
Litchfield Mayor Steve Dougherty added he was honored to be part of such a special celebration that night, not unlike the thousands of celebrations at the Ariston over the years.
Thole introduced several special guests including David Hutson, a member of the Neon Preservation Committee, who actually completed the work on the Ariston signs, as well Bill Kelly, who is the executive director of the Illinois Route 66 Heritage Project. He also recognized longtime former owners, Nick and Demi Adam, as well as their family members, including sons Paul (wife Joy) Adam and Jon (wife Amy) Adam, and grandchildren Nicholas, Maria and Leah.
The Ariston was officially opened in Carlinville 95 years ago this year. It was relocated to Litchfield 90 years ago, at the site of the current Litchfield Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center, and has been continuously operated at its current location for the last 85 years.
Nick Adam told the large crowd how much he and his family appreciated the love and support they have been shown. His wife, Demi, added it was a bittersweet evening for them, and they wished the best to new owners, Will and Michele Law and Marty and Kara Steffens, who bought the restaurant last summer.
Before concluding the ceremony, Kara Steffens thanked the Adam family for their hard work in rooting the business in the community.
"Thank you for believing in us and our ability to carry it on," she said. "We take great pride in being here."
Will Law added the couples felt honored to follow where the Adam family left off.
"This will always be your home," Law said. "And we'd love for everyone to join us here at the Ariston for another 95 years."
All participants received a commemorative can coozie from the event, as well as cake following the relighting ceremony.