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Tropics Sign Relighting In Lincoln
Date & Time
7:15 PM - 8:30 PM

The restoration of the neon sign for The Tropics in Lincoln, Illinois, is nearing completion and the Tropics Legacy Campaign organizers have set a relighting date for Sunday, June 24, at the McDonald’s parking lot where the Route 66 restaurant once stood. The location is the exact spot where the famous sign resided. The address is 1007 Hickox Drive in Lincoln, at the intersection of the 1940-77 alignment of Route 66 (Lincoln Parkway) and Woodlawn Road. The Tropics Relighting Ceremony will begin with a social gathering from 7:15-7:45pm, followed by a program from 7:45-8:15pm and then the relighting at 8:15pm.

Thanks to a grant from the National Park Serivce Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, and local fund-raising efforts, the sign was transported in June 2016 to Ace Sign Co. in Springfield, Illinois, for restoration. Joe Bringuet, one of Ace Sign Company's original owners who serviced the sign when it was located at The Tropics restaurant, helped not only with painting the lettering on the sign, but also provided guidance to employees during the restoration who weren't familiar with signs that use the old neon tube lighting.

According to local folklore, Vince Schwenoha once traveled to California and drew inspiration from its palm trees when he started The Tropics Restaurant and its iconic neon sign in 1950. Vince's parents, John (Coonhound Johnny) & Minnie Schwenoha deeded the restaurant over to their son Vince for a sum of one dollar. That original document, along with other rare original documents are part of the Tropics collection at The Mill Museum in Lincoln. Coonhound Johnny is well-known for his liquor distribution for Al Capone during prohibition. Capone remained friends with Coonhound Johnny after Capone's release from prison. But Johnny's son, Vince only owned the Tropics for a few years. Lew and Bev Johnson ran the eatery for the next several decades, and were the ones that really made it famous. The Johnson family has also added to the Tropics collection at The Mill Museum, including providing a Tropics dining table and chairs. Other Tropics items at The Mill include a barstool and a variety of menus, historic photos and matchbooks. 

The Tropics experienced a number of closings and re-openings after Interstate 55 bypassed the city of Lincoln, and eventually closed permanently in 2003. In 2016, the Tropics was inducted into the Illinois Route 66 Hall of Fame.

1007 Hickox Drive
Lincoln, IL