News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
The dukes are back: One big ‘Hazzard’ family
BY CRAIG SCHULIN
In this day when the Confederate battle flag can provoke so much controversy, it seems sort of odd to celebrate a television show that featured a car with one emblazoned on its roof.
But this show wasn’t about hate and prejudice. It was about “two good ol’ boys, never meaning no harm.”
And though they may have ran afoul of the law on occasion, they were merely “fightin’ the system like two modern day Robin Hoods.”
“The Dukes of Hazzard” was a true family show.
“It was a show that parents could trust for their children to watch, one that taught a lesson in morality,” said Ben Jones, the actor who played town mechanic Cooter Davenport on the show, a reliable friend to the show’s Duke family. Jones and his wife, Alma Viator, are the organizers of the Homecoming.
The family event includes a petting zoo, bounces, a climbing wall, a water slide, Hazzard County stunt demonstrations and Civil War calvary re-enactors. The American BMX Stunt Team with Keith King will perform and WWE wrestlers featuring Jerry Lawler will be as Jones puts it, “rasslin.”
There will be plenty of music, too. Southern rockers Silver Travis, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley, and rockabilly icon Sonny Burgess are just a few of the acts performing. Cooter’s Garage Band, which features Jones, will take the stage Saturday night.
“John Schneider and Tom Wopat [Bo and Luke Duke], who are world-class country singers, will be joining us on stage,” said Jones.
Schneider, along with fellow cast members James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane) and Rick Hurst (Deputy Cletus) will be on the red carpet at The Theater at Washington, Virginia, for the movie première of “The Return of the Killer Shrews,” which stars the three actors.
Seating in the theater is available, though limited. However, some of the fun will be outside.
“We’re going to roll out the red carpet and all of us will be dressed up,” said Jones about the town of Washington’s own Hollywood-style event.
If all of that wasn’t enough, the Saturday festivities will be topped off with a fireworks display. And don’t think the inspiration for the homecoming, the show itself, is being left out. More than 50 “General Lee” reproductions owned by fans from across the country will be on display.
All of the cast members will be available to sign autographs, something Jones and his fellow cast members do not take for granted.
“These folks will stand in line for hours to meet the cast and get their autographs. It is the fans who have really sustained the show this way,” says Jones.
One of those fans is local fan Janelle Cooke Simpson. She and her husband, Mike, won a two-day trip to last year’s event in a contest sponsored by WFLS. Though she is a fan of the show, Simpson claims Mike is the real enthusiast. He brought along a die-cast car he had saved since he was a kid and got the cast to sign it.
This year, his parents and sister from Illinois will join the couple and their two children, Sydney and Hunter.
“If someone had told me in 1978 that all this would be taking place in the next millennium—it would have been incomprehensible to me,” said Jones.
What: Hazzard Homecoming
Where: Ben Venue Race Course, 38 Ben Venue Road, Amissville
When: Begins Saturday at 9 a.m., Sunday at 9:30 a.m.
Cost: Advance, $20 one-day/$25 two-day; at gate, $25/$30.
Info: 615/872-8358; cootersplace.com
Craig Schulin: 540/374-5403