Dukesfest

"Dukesfest" is an event where Dukes of Hazzard fans from all over the world get together for a weekend and enjoy everything there is to enjoy about Dukes of Hazzard. You can meet the original cast, take a look at hundreds of General Lee's and enjoy performances by the cast and other performers on stage. Started by Ben Jones in Sperryville in August 2001, spent 2004-2005 at the Bristol Motor Speedway onward to Nashville for 2006-2007. John Schneider held the final “DukesFest” in Atlanta in 2008.

When Hazzard Nation gets together

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Date: June 4th & 5th 2005
Location: Bristol Motor Speedway
City: Bristol, Tennessee
Attendance: 40.000
Organization: Ben Jones

The Bristol Motor Speedway has seen its fair share of collisions, but none more spectacular than the crack-up that occurred last weekend when Jeff Foxworthy's best joke crashed into Ulysses S. Grant's worst nightmare. The place was swarmed by Southerners and surrounded by General Lees. Horns played "Dixie" at dawn. A cavalry of orange Chargers roared through town and endlessly around the racetrack.

Ten bucks - and a heaping helping of patience - bought five laps and the priceless opportunity to feel for a fleeting moment like Bo or Luke: the charge of the white lightning brigade. "Gosh, it was awesome," 22-year-old Kentuckian Dillon Faulkner said.

If you wait in line two hours to ride five minutes in a '69 Dodge with a Confederate flag painted on its roof, you might be …

• A 9-year-old girl from Woodlawn, Va.
• A 63-year-old grandpa from Lincoln, Neb.
• A serious "Dukes of Hazzard " fan, most of all.

More than 40,000 of them descended on the Bristol Motor Speedway for CMT DukesFest 2005. Adults paid $15 to $25 a head for an event that proves that Robert E. Lee lost the war but won the battle. The PR battle, at least.

In 1979, CBS premiered a show that would carry Lee's name into the 21st century. On "The Dukes of Hazzard," General Lee didn't ride a charger. He was one - a bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger R/T, to be exact. Despite its Dixiecratic iconography, "The Dukes of Hazzard" is less about rednecks than the red-state values that Dukesfest so dutifully reflects.

The speedway's beer booths were closed last weekend. A makeshift park with inflatable jump-houses for kids was opened. Evidence of the new "Dukes of Hazzard" movie, a Jessica Simpson-Johnny Knoxville vehicle scheduled for release in August, was nowhere to be found. DukesFest organizer Ben Jones, who played ace mechanic Cooter Davenport on the TV show, said the bawdy flick is a disgrace to the wholesome series. "It's a scurrilous, slacker version with a lot of toilet humor," Jones said. "I've read the script. I tell people, 'Please don't make the mistake of taking your children to see it.'"

The Dukes of Hazzard" is a cornpone comedy about two handsome, young moonshine runners from rural Georgia. Bo and Luke Duke are rebels with a Robin Hood-like cause, alternately fleeing and foiling the inept, corrupt rule of Boss Hogg and his Straight Outta Hee-Haw henchmen. "It's a show the whole family can watch, and Hollywood doesn't make many of those," said Scott Gordon, a 31-year-old corrections officer whose wife and two sons drove eight hours to DukesFest from Abbeville , Ala. "I grew up on the show, and now my boys are too."

Los Angeles Times critic Howard Rosenberg , a Pulitzer Prize-winning! alumnus of The Louisville Times, originally said the show "wouldn't last past the first commercial break." He has been eating Southern-fried crow for 26 years. "The Dukes of Hazzard" played prime time for seven seasons and roosted in Nielsen's top 10 from 1979 to '82. Cable networks have rerun the show's 147 episodes for ages.

More than 23 million people watched the weekend marathon with which CMT (Country Music Television) launched its "Dukes" revival in February. "It's a testament to the fans who refuse to let this show die," said Jones, whose wife, Alma Viator , graduated from Louisville's Valley High School.

Nobody - not Rosenberg, not CBS, not even the show's stars - knew the Dukes would be such an abiding hit. The secret lies in a timeless formula, Jones said: "Fast is always fast, funny is always funny and good-looking is always good-looking."Hundreds of people stood in the June sun for an hour or more to take a brief spin in one of the 40 or so General Lees that roared in for the weekend. The speedway grounds were criss-crossed with endless lines of adoring, autograph-seeking fans. Only three members of the main cast were missing. Denver Pyle (Uncle Jesse) died in 1997. Sorrell Booke , aka Boss Hogg, died in 1994. Tom Wopat (Luke Dukes) is acting in the Tony-winning revival of David Mamet's play "Glengarry Glen Ross ."

Watch the video we shot at the event.

Date: June 3rd & 4th 2006
Location: Music City Motorplex
City: Nashville, Tennessee
Attendance: 100.000
Organization: Ben Jones

For the sake of a certain automobile, Justin Knotts, 21, recently drove nine hours from his home in Campbell, Mo., to arrive at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds. Eleven years ago, before Mr. Knotts's feet could reach an accelerator pad, he and his father began restoring a burned-out 1969 Dodge Charger to replicate the General Lee, the curve-straightening, hill-flattening muscle car featured on "The Dukes of Hazzard." Mr. Knotts sold the car in 2004 to raise money for his wedding, but it would be making an appearance here today, and he was determined to reclaim it. "If no price gets brought up," Mr. Knotts said, "I might still be able to buy it back for what I paid for it."

But more than that lost car, what lured Mr. Knotts, and 100,000 other loyal fans, to the Music City Motorplex was DukesFest, a two-day celebration of "The Dukes of Hazzard," the down-home comedy-adventure series that was broadcast on CBS from 1979 to 1985. The annual gathering (held this year on June 3 and 4) is an opportunity for viewers to mingle with the show's stars, trade memorabilia, dress in kitschy T-shirts or simply watch fireworks or eat pork products named for the show's corpulent villain, Boss Hogg. But among this crowd there is a smaller, more dedicated group for whom Dukesfest is a kind of mystical calling, a sacred convocation for those who can find transcendence in an event as simple as a car leaping over a ditch.

Their high priest is Ben Jones, the actor who played the character of Cooter Davenport, a garage mechanic. After moving to Rappahannock County, Va., Mr. Jones and his wife, Alma, opened a "Dukes"-theme general store called Cooter's Place in the summer of 1999, and staged outdoor festivals there, honoring the series. "The show had sort of flown under the radar for a long time," Mr. Jones said in a telephone interview. "It's timeless, except for the doofus haircuts. But a lot of people I know have doofus haircuts."

Then "The Dukes of Hazzard" underwent a resurgence on cable television and DVD. Mr. Jones relocated his store to Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Dukesfest itself to the Bristol Motor Speedway, a racetrack in Bristol, Tennessee. This summer, as he prepared to open a second Cooter's Place in Nashville, he brought Dukesfest with him, as well as an official sponsorship from the cable channel CMT and all the surviving members of the "Dukes of Hazzard" cast: including John Schneider and Tom Wopat, who as Bo and Luke Duke were the show's hunky young stars, and Rick Hurst, who played the bumbling deputy Cletus.

At a cast appearance at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville on the eve of DukesFest 2006, the mood in the adjoining dressing rooms was a mixture of anticipation and validation. Many of the actors could still recite from memory some of the terrible reviews that "The Dukes of Hazzard" received during its seven seasons, including disparaging remarks made by William S. Paley, then the CBS chairman, at a time when the show was drawing nearly 30 million viewers a week. Mr. Jones claims that support has only grown since then. Not everyone was convinced. "When you're in California, you've got to wonder about the validity of the franchise," said Mr. Schneider, who now stars on the WB drama "Smallville." "It's not that it doesn't exist, but it's tragically unhip. So when Ben talks about how popular it is, you want to believe it, but you don't, really, until you see it."

By the following evening, an estimated 75,000 fans had turned out for the first day of DukesFest, clad in bright orange baseball caps bearing the "01" legend that appeared on the doors of the General Lee, toting children who dressed in the too-short cutoff shorts worn by Daisy Duke, and the black Stetson hats favored by Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane.

Though DukesFest lacks a dress code, certain rules are non-negotiable. Attendees must speak reverently when invoking any of the show's deceased cast members: Sorrell Booke, who played Boss Hogg; Denver Pyle, who played the kindly Uncle Jesse; and the country musician Waylon Jennings, who narrated the show and provided its theme song, "Good Ol' Boys."

Standing in line for autographs or ogling the more than 100 original and homemade General Lees that dotted the circumference of the motorplex, many of the fans were eager to talk about their highly personal reasons for making the pilgrimage to Dukesfest. Tom 'Luke Duke' Wopat — who since starring on the show has appeared in Broadway productions of "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Glengarry Glen Ross" — his reason for coming to this, his first-ever DukesFest, was unequivocal. "I was available," he said.

As he signed autographs in an air-conditioned arts and crafts building, Mr. Wopat seemed genuinely pleased with the turnout that greeted him. "John Schneider and I used to do some singing dates together," he said, "and we did O.K. at those things. This is insane. This is huge." But he makes no promises about DukesFest 2007. "It's great to see the fans again," he said. "At the same time, if I got something else that doesn't let me out, that doesn't make those allowances, I've got to weigh those things." That answer seemed to satisfy the dozens of General Lees parked in the distance, as their horns blared "Dixie" in approval and their engines revved in preparation for the first of several victory laps.

Watch the video we shot at the event.

Date: June 2nd & 3rd 2007
Location: Music City Motorplex
City: Nashville, Tennessee
Attendance: 60.000
Organization: Ben Jones

The sea of orange, the constant of "Dixie" blaring from the car horns and the famous theme song ringing throughout the parking lot can only mean one thing: You've arrived at CMT DukesFest 2007, a utopia for fans of The Dukes of Hazzard.

Attendance totaled approximately 30,000 each day when the festival returned to the Tennessee State Fairgounds on Saturday and Sunday (June 2-3). In addition to the cars and camaraderie, the fans flocked to Nashville for the chance to see most of the stars of The Dukes of Hazzard, including John Schneider (Bo Duke), Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke), Ben Jones (Cooter Davenport), James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane), Rick Hurst (Deputy Cletus Hogg) and came Sonny Shroyer (Deputy Enos Strate).

Fans travel across the U.S., Canada and even Europe to celebrate their love of -- or perhaps their -- obsession with -- the classic television show. On display were more than 250 Dodge Charger General Lees and other vehicles that would have looked perfectly in place in Hazzard Country during the program's heyday. Why? If you ask them, they'll tell you it's the show's "family values." In spite of cousins Bo and Luke Duke's occasional run-ins with the law, most fans would agree it's the show's wholesome principles that keep them tuned in. In its own way, DukesFest strives to keep family values alive while at the same time allowing the fans to relive a fond memory or two. For Tennessee resident Chris O'Neal Sr., this seems to be the case."Oh, I grew up watching 'em ever since I was a kid," he said. "Me and my granddaddy used to take little cars and play together. It's just something I grew up to. When I was a kid, if we weren't home on Friday night to watch it, I was a fussin'."

Like O'Neal, many of the biggest Dukes fans can be found on the racetrack standing proudly next to their very own General Lees, huddled under umbrellas while they attempt to keep cool in the 98-degree Nashville weather." When I was a kid, it was all about the car," explained Troy Stallings, who traveled from Illinois to attend the festival. "I painted my first when I got a limited edition Huffy bicycle that my dad bought me that I had to beg for. A week later, I painted it orange and put an '01' on it. I got beat up a lot in school for that, but now I make up for it with the car."

Stallings has invested almost $50,000 into his General Lee. Jim Sirotnek, the owner of one of the 17 original General Lee Chargers understands the attraction."The Dukes came out when I was about in seventh grade, and that's a very impressionable time for a seventh grader. You get to looking at girls at that time but mostly cars. I think that show made such an impression on me. I just love cars. I think watching that show at that age really kept it going for me."

Devout Dukes fan Scott Catron, 37, has been watching the show since he was 8."I'm the biggest Dukes fan there is," he said. "I grew up on it, and I love it -- Southern pride. It's a great American show. I mean, it's about good people. It's a good family show."

Paul Harrington even travels from Ontario, Canada, to attend DukesFest. He's the proud owner of two General Lees, one Cooter tow trick, a Rosco car and even a Hazzard County boat."I bought my first car out of a magazine back in March of '91," said Harrington. "And ever since, I've been collecting them."

In addition, fan Gary Capon remembers watching the show as a little boy, growing up on south coast of England."We grew up with it as a first generation and the second generation is coming through now," Capon. "It was just clean family fun. Saturday nights, it was big."

The list continues, and the stories are endless, but the constant admiration for a television favorite can be seen throughout DukesFest. Here, fans are given another chance to reawaken fond childhood memories by remembering their beloved Hazzard County family. "Oh, yeah," one fan noted. "It's a life thing. Once a Dukes fan, always a Dukes fan."

Watch our video we shot at day one of the event.

Watch our video we shot at day two of the event.

Date: June 28th & 29th 2008
Location: Atlanta Motor Speedway
City: Atlanta, Georgia
Attendance: 35.000
Organization: John Schneider

What beter place to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Dukes of Hazzard than right back where it began back in 1978? That is what John Schneider a.k.a. Bo Dukes must have thought when he decided that Dukesfest 2008, the first Dukesfest under his management, would be held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway just outside of Atlanta, GA. This year's event included appearances by Ben Jones (Cooter Davenport); John Schneider (Bo Duke); Tom Wopat (Luke Duke); Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke); Byron Cherry (Coy Duke); James Best (Rosco P. Coltrane); Sonny Shroyer (Deputy Enos); Rick Hurst (Deputy Cletus) and Don Pedro Colley (Sheriff Ed Little).

The burly men lined up early to see the woman of their dreams at this weekend's Dukesfest, a sea of camouflage and General Lee orange T-shirts. Nervously glancing side to side, they blushed as they snaked through the more than 50-deep line at Atlanta Motor Speedway to finally reach their long awaited goal: Daisy Duke (Catherine Bach), the star from the hit television show "Dukes of Hazzard" who made hip-hugging Daisy Duke jeans shorts famous.

"You are just as beautiful as you ever was," Truelove, a landscaper from Clermont, declared as he introduced himself to Bach. Truelove, who said he owns all the Dukes episodes on DVD, had tears in his eyes and "felt like a teenager all over again" when Bach rested her head on his shoulder and posed for a photo with him. "I'm just a redneck and she is the biggest celebrity I have ever met," he said triumphantly, clutching her autographed photo.

Truelove is one of thousands who turned out at the racetrack for the two-day event Saturday marking the 30th anniversary of the show a little early. Parts of the show, which aired from 1979 to 1985, were shot in Conyers, and characters Bo and Luke Duke sometimes talked about racing NASCAR in Atlanta.

Outside the media center where Bach busily signed autographs, lunchboxes and T-shirts – for women and children, too – car enthusiasts showed off dozens of look-alike General Lees, the famous orange Dodge Charger cousins Bo and Luke drove in the show. Some of the car owners took fans on thrill rides around the track. Other fans dressed up like characters in the show, including 13-year-old Austin Prather. He appeared as the show's villain, Boss Hogg, complete with white polyester suit, matching cowboy hat, and pillow stuffing to give him Hogg's paunch.

"Now we just need to find a gray wig to go with it," Prather's grandmother, Delina, said proudly as she admired him. The Prathers traveled to the show from Cairo, Mo., with five show vehicles including a 1970 Cadillac DeVille convertible they restored to look like Hogg's ride. They weren't the only ones who came from afar. Steve Whittaker drove in Friday from Bristol, Va., spending the night with his wife and two young sons in their minivan. They lined up early Saturday morning to get Daisy's autograph. "She's gorgeous," Whittaker asserted after Bach autographed a somewhat revealing photo of herself for him.

Watch our video we shot at day one of the event.

Watch our video we shot at day two of the event.

Date: September 26th 2010
Location: Circuit Park Zandvoort
City: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

In 2010, a group of Dutch Dukes of Hazzard devotees got the idea of organizing a meeting like Dukesfest. Be it a little bit smaller. They called it "Euro Dukesfest". An event where they could show their General Lee and Rosco Cop Car replicas to the public as well as meeting with other Duke fans. Because an independent meeting would be very difficult and expensive to set up, they decided to join the annual Nationaal Oldtimer Festival at the Circuit Park in Zandvoort, The Netherlands.

3 General Lees from Holland and a Rosco Cop Car from Belgium showed up that day, as well as fans from Holland, Belgium and even Germany. A professional DJ played all kinds of Southern Country music from his DJ-booth. In the afternoon the Hazzard County cars made their way to the circuit and drove a couple of laps around the track. Much to the delight of the drivers.

Watch our 2010 Euro Dukesfest video

Date: September 11th 2011
Location: Circuit Park Zandvoort
City: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

For the second time, we have had our Euro Dukesfest meeting during the National Oldtimer Festival at the Circuit Park in Zandvoort. This year's date was September 11th. There were 6 General Lee's present and even a Rosco Patrolcar made it's way from Germany. DJ Gino D played his music and the German fans brought their Hazzard County popcorn machine to give away free popcorn. We drove a few laps around the track together with the winners of our JD Hogg Lotery.

Unfortunately, this day was cut short when a whole lot of rain fell down in the afternoon. Nevertheless, it was a great day with lots of fun.

Watch our 2011 Euro Dukesfest video

Date: August 11th 2013
Location: Circuit Park Zandvoort
City: Zandvoort, The Netherlands

For the third time, we have had our Euro Dukesfest meeting during the National Oldtimer Festival at the Circuit Park in Zandvoort. Why change a winning formula? This year's date was August 11th. This year there were a record of 7 General Lee's present and even two Rosco Patrolcars. One of them even made it's way from Germany. DJ Gino D played his music and one of the General Lee owners brought his BBQ-Lee. A barbecue build in the back of a 1969 Charger made into a trailer. That's gotta be a world exclusive! We drove a few laps around the track together with the winners of our JD Hogg Lotery.

Watch our 2013 Euro Dukesfest video

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