Fans Ride to Georgia for ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ Celebration

They had a long way to go and a short time to get there, but hundreds of fans in Pontiac Trans Ams have put the hammer down and made it to Atlanta to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Smokey and the Bandit.

About 350 cars this week retraced actor Burt Reynolds’ wild ride from the Texas-Arkansas line to Atlanta in the movie that roared into pop culture in 1977.

“Every town we drive through, people come out to film us, take pictures and wave as our convoy of cars comes through — it’s like being in a huge parade,” said organizer Dave Hall of Lincoln, Nebraska.

Truckers and others also took part in “Snowman’s Run,” a road trip that raises money for wounded veterans in the name of the late actor and musician Jerry Reed, who played the trucker Snowman in the movie.

All of them have gathered in Jonesboro, Georgia, the town 15 miles (25 kilometers) south of Atlanta where much of the movie was filmed.

Reynolds to attend

This weekend, they plan to re-create some of the movie’s memorable scenes, including a stunt driver’s attempt to jump 150 feet (45 meters) through the air in a Trans Am. Also planned: a Burt Reynolds look-alike contest.

Reynolds himself will also be in attendance, and will take part in a question-and-answer session in a city park, Jonesboro City Manager Ricky Clark Jr. said.

“People are coming from all over the U.S. and other countries,” Clark said. “I got a message from someone from Switzerland who is flying over for this event.”

Smokey and the Bandit was among the first big-budget movies to be filmed in Georgia, paving the way for more recent films such as The Hunger Games movies and TV shows such as AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Many of the scenes from Smokey and the Bandit were filmed on Main Street in downtown Jonesboro, nearby U.S. Highway 41 and other roads in the area, Clark said.

Bandit’s jump

Some of the buildings still stand. The city’s train depot that dates to 1867 appears in the movie, but moviemakers temporarily replaced its Jonesboro sign with one that said “Texarkana” so they could film scenes set in the town on the Texas-Arkansas line. That’s where the movie’s main characters picked up the 400 cases of Coors beer they would deliver to Atlanta in 28 hours. Participants in the anniversary celebration plan to re-create the “Coors scene” at the spot where it was filmed in Jonesboro this weekend.

A stunt man driving a Trans Am had also had hoped to re-create the Bandit’s jump across the Flint River west of downtown Jonesboro. The leap allowed Reynolds and his passenger, Sally Field, to evade the pursuing law officers, whose patrol cars plunged into the river seconds later.

But organizers decided another jump at the river site, now overtaken by weeds, wasn’t feasible. So they will instead re-create the jump at Atlanta Motor Speedway Saturday evening.

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