‘Dukes’ reunion could mean up to $1 million impact for Byron

lmorris@macon.comMarch 7, 2013 

  • WHAT: “Dukes of Hazzard” Georgia Reunion, Classic Car Show and Music Festival
    WHEN: 4-11 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
    WHERE: Old Middle Georgia Raceway at 4015 U.S. 41 North in Byron
    COST: Advance one-day tickets are $20. All three days costs $35. Tickets at the gate cost $5 more. Children 6 and younger and seniors 65 and older are free. Tickets can be purchased at www.dukesofhazzardgareunion.com, or in Warner Robins at Victory Lane Auto Sales or Flooring Specialists, and in Byron at the Welcome Center or Big Peach Antique Mall. (Proceeds will go to the Bradley Baptist Church Road to Hope Program, the Jones County Cruisers Annual Charity Drive for children and families, as well as other charities.)
    ABOUT THE EVENT: The reunion will feature seven of the original “Dukes of Hazzard” cast members, including John Schneider (Bo Duke), Tom Wopat (Luke Duke), Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke), James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane), Sonny Shroyer (Deputy Enos Strate), Ben Jones (Cooter Davenport) and Rick Hurst (Deputy Cletus Hogg). The cast members will be available for autographs Saturday.
    OF NOTE: Organizer Chris Jennings believes more than 60,000 will show up for the event. He said tickets have been sold in all 50 states and nine countries. The event will feature a concert Friday by country singer David Allen Coe, a classic car show with more than 500 cars, an Army tank, a monster truck, helicopter rides and jump houses for children. Other musical performances through the weekend include Ben Jones & Cooter’s Garage Band, Confederate Railroad and The Lacs, a “country-rap” duo. Other local musical acts also will perform.

CORRECTION: A source for this story misidentified himself. Steven Thomas is a front desk clerk at Best Western in Byron. A corrected version is below.

If an expected crowd of 60,000 people shows up in Byron for three-day “The Dukes of Hazzard” reunion, the economic impact could reach up to $1 million, a chamber official said.

The “Dukes of Hazzard” Georgia Reunion, Classic Car Show and Music Festival will be Friday through Sunday at the former Middle Georgia Raceway, 4015 U.S. 41 North. Among the highlights will be a concert Friday by country singer David Allen Coe and a classic car show with more than 500 cars. Cast members of the iconic television series will sign autographs Saturday.

“Between the hotels, gas stations and restaurants, I would place an economic impact over the three-day period of anywhere from $700,000 to $1 million,” said Perry Swanson, president of the Peach County Chamber of Commerce. “Of course, we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.”

Swanson said he came up with the estimate by calling around to local businesses for their expectations.

“(The estimate) would be over and above what (the businesses) normally would do on those days,” he said.

Organizer Chris Jennings provided the estimate of more than 60,000 for the event based on advance ticket sales.

“It’s probably the biggest event, numberwise, we’ve had since the (Atlanta International) Pop Festival,” Swanson said. The 1970 Pop Festival was also a three-day event held at the race track which caught Middle Georgia by surprise when the crowd swelled to what some have estimated at about 500,000 people.

“It’s hard to know how people will spend their money and where (during this weekend’s festival),” Swanson said. “We’ve got four, five hotels, and they all say they are much busier.”

Steven Thomas, front desk clerk at the Best Western Inn & Suites in Byron, said Thursday the hotel is full for the weekend and at least 80 percent of the 65 rooms are reserved by “Dukes” reunion-goers.

“People started calling as soon as it was announced in October,” he said.

About 20 guests were expected to check in Thursday, which is usually a slow night, and 44 are expected Friday, he said.

Vicky Vyas, assistant manager with the 60-room Quality Inn in Byron, said she’s heard all the hotels in Byron were full and that some people are staying in Warner Robins.

“A lot of people are calling for rooms,” Vyas said, but the hotel is booked for the weekend.

“We are really excited,” she said. “This is something big going on here. It’s going to help all the businesses around here.”

The chamber hasn’t gotten a lot of calls about the festival since it is a private venture, Swanson said.

“It’s what we need ... private investors who have a business plan and some experience and knowledge on how to put on an event like this and make thing work,” Swanson said.

“Hopefully, people will divert a little bit and go to some of the tourist attractions in Peach County ... like the local orchards and we’ve got the Peaches to Beaches (yard sale) this weekend, too.”

Byron Mayor Larry Collins said this weekend’s festival also “has shades of the old rock festival in 1970.”

But the unexpected large turnout at the Pop Festival created a nightmare of traffic snarls, food shortages and too few portable toilets.

“We are hopeful this will be an event people will enjoy,” Collins said. “The ’70s and ’80s generation should behave themselves.”

The city has been contacted by the promoter and will provide some police officers to “direct traffic and protect city assets,” he said. The Peach County Sheriff’s Office also will provide deputies.

“I will go out Saturday to the car show,” Collins said, who added he has about six “barn finds” -- old vehicles that had been stored in barns. “I expect to see a lot of friends.”

Collins said he is hopeful this event will go smoothly, which could bring other events to the area.

“This will be a trial run,” he said. “To see if it’s the kind of event you can do something with. It could be great. ... Most of what I’ve heard (from businesses) are positive things.

“The economy has been down,” he said. “This could be like Christmas in March.”

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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