Dukesfest to be held at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2008

HAMPTON - Bo Duke is coming back to where it all started.

John Schneider, who played the blond-haired Bo on "The Dukes of Hazzard" in the 1970s and '80s, told a crowd Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway that the annual Dukesfest is set to return in 2008 to the area where the show began.

"The General Lee has always been a NASCAR. Bo and Luke were NASCAR drivers who were trying to make their mark on the weekends. ... Atlanta Motor Speedway was our NASCAR goal."

Schneider's last trip to the track was with the show's writers and producers. He wanted to show them a real race so they would quit making so many "Hollywood" mistakes. That was decades ago, but with a special anniversary looming, the actor and singer said it was time to return to AMS.

"It's hard for me to believe it's been 30 years since we started 'The Dukes of Hazzard' in Conyers, Covington and Social Circle, not that far from right here," Schneider said. "My wife and I thought it would be a great idea because of this anniversary, the 30th anniversary of filming 'The Dukes of Hazzard,' to bring it back where 'Dukes of Hazzard' was really born, back to Atlanta."

Schneider has done the festival since 1999, and it's grown every year. The annual event now draws up to 100,000 fans, each one clamoring to see stars of the show and the famous cars. For 2008, being so close to the area where the show filmed, combined with the lofty plans for the festival, should help the event continue that tradition.

"Our goal is to make sure that the people who kept us around for these 30 years have the very best weekend that they can possibly have," Schneider said.

That weekend will include a Hazzard County Fair that will turn the area inside the race track into a living, breathing Hazzard County. In addition, most of the show's famous alumni are slated to attend, including Tom Wopat, who played Luke Duke, Catherine Bach (Daisy) and Ben Jones, who played the simple-but-clever Cooter Davenport.

And of course, it wouldn't be a Dukes event without plenty of cars.

"We will have at least 220 General Lees," Schneider said. "The goal is to have them rear-end to front-end (all the way) around the track. Now that'll be a picture."

Several stunts and a demolition derby are also planned, including an attempt to break the record for jumping a car the farthest distance, which stands at 205 feet and was set at a previous Dukesfest.

For Schneider, the show is something that's stood the test of time because of two things: the fascination with muscle cars and the show's moral footing.

"We were doing good things. ... We had a code. We were, in many regards, as Waylon (Jennings) said, modern day Robin Hoods.

"We were very well-written, selfless heroes. We don't have those anymore really on television or in the movies. People don't really do things because they're the right things to do anymore. They weren't raised by Uncle Jesse."

That ethic resonated in the '80s and it still does today, especially here, Schneider said.

"There's no place that Bo Duke and good ol' General Lee would rather be."

SideBar: If You Go

What: 2008 Dukesfest and Hazzard County Fair

When: June 28 and 29

Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton

More info: www.dukesfest.com