Hazzard Homecoming: a special reunion

An estimated 10,000 showed up in Sperryville last August for the first-ever Hazzard Homecoming. Raymond Boc | Rappahannock News
An estimated 10,000 showed up in Sperryville last August for the first-ever Hazzard Homecoming.

If the ace mechanic who kept Hazzard County rolling is correct, a weekend in August in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia is going to be a turbocharged delight for the faithful fans of “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Ben Jones, the former Congressman who played “Cooter” on the ever-popular family show is putting together another “Hazzard Homecoming” extravaganza on the weekend of Aug. 11-12 in Rappahannock County, and according to him, “Hazzard Nation is rising again!”

“Our whole cast is going to attend,” he says, “and that doesn’t happen very often. It’s been a few years since we all saw each other at one time, and this might be the last time we get to share a stage together. John Schneider, Tom Wopat, Catherine Bach, James Best, Sonny Shroyer and Rick Hurst will all join in the fun. So this is not only special for the fans, it is also very special for us.”

Jones should know these things because he and his wife, Alma Viator, though residents of Rappahannock’s Harris Hollow, have spent much of the last 14 years enjoying the continuing success of all things Hazzard. They have two popular “Cooter’s Place” venues in Gatlinburg and Nashville, Tennessee, and he tours annually with Cooter’s Garage Band, a Southern country-rock combo. Ben and Alma also created DukesFest, the mega-event that peaked when more than 100,000 fans flocked to Nashville in 2007.

“We kicked back after that,” Viator says. “We both wanted to do something more laid-back and down-home. Something more like a county fair back in Hazzard.” The result was Hazzard Homecoming, in a bucolic rural setting in the mountain county where they live.

There are about 7,000 folks in Rappahannock County and no stoplights, Viator says, adding that last year “for two days the Homecoming added about 10,000 to the population here. But everything went off without a hitch, and everybody had a ball. We even had a bunch of folks from Europe.”

“Dukes” cast member Rick Hurst does his thing for a video crew at “Hazzard Homecoming” last August in Sperryville.Raymond Boc | Rappahannock News
“Dukes” cast member Rick Hurst does his thing for a video crew at “Hazzard Homecoming” last August in Sperryville.

This year the event will be held at the Ben Venue Racecourse, at U.S. 211 and Route 729. “It’s a beautiful spot and gives us a lot more room than we’ve had in the past. It will make folks think they are actually in Hazzard County, says Jones. “Except that we don’t really drive like that around here!” adds Viator.

Besides the cast, Hazzard Homecoming will feature two days of rockabilly, country, bluegrass, and gospel music. The entertainment will include Grammy winner Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Stella Parton, Southern rockers Silver Travis, rockabilly icons Sonny Burgess and Sleepy LaBeef and gospel legends The Lewis Tradition. “And don’t forget that John Schneider and Tom Wopat are world-class country singers with a lot of hit records to their credit. The concert itself will be worth the trip,” says “Cooter.”

A license plate on one of the 50-odd General Lees at last year’s Hazzard Homecoming. Raymond Boc | Rappahannock News
A license plate on one of the 50-odd General Lees at last year’s Hazzard Homecoming.

Reached on the set of “The Young and the Restless” where she is guest starring, Catherine Bach, who played the fetching Daisy Duke, echoed Jones’ sentiments. “I can’t wait to get back to the Homecoming! It is just plain old fun, the kind we used to have when I was growing up in South Dakota. And it is in such a beautiful location. Even though it is a very busy event, it seems sort of like a vacation in the country. I can’t wait to see my ‘Dukes’ family and all of the fans who have supported us for so long.”

Besides personal appearances and stage performances by the cast and the other headliners, Hazzard Homecoming will feature a Dukes Stunt Demonstration, American BMX Stunt Team with Keith King, a Hazzard County Car Show including more than 50 “General Lees,” wrestling with legendary WWE Champion Jerry Lawler, a Saturday night fireworks celebration and lots of children’s activities including rides, slides and a country petting zoo.

The “Dukes of Hazzard” series, which originally aired 1979 through 1985, continues to be a staple on Country Music Television (CMT). “Each generation that comes along falls in love with it,” says Jones. “They never say ‘The Dukes was a great show.’ They always say ‘The Dukes is a great show.”

Tickets for Hazzard Homecoming Aug. 11-12, available online now at cootersplace.com, are $25 for Saturday and Sunday (or $20 for one day), plus a $2 handling charge. At the gate, a weekend pass is $30 and a single-day ticket $25. Children ages 10 and younger are free, as well as seniors 65 and older and U.S. servicemen and -women with proper military ID. For more information about the festival, call 615-872-8358 or visit cootersplace.com.

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