The sea of orange, the constant of “Dixie” blaring from the car horns and the famous theme song ringing throughout the parking lot can only mean one thing: You’ve arrived at CMT DukesFest 2007, a utopia for fans of The Dukes of Hazzard.
Attendance totaled approximately 30,000 each day when the festival returned to the Tennessee State Fairgounds on Saturday and Sunday (June 2-3). In addition to the cars and camaraderie, the fans flocked to Nashville for the chance to see most of the stars of The Dukes of Hazzard, including John Schneider (Bo Duke), Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke), Ben Jones (Cooter Davenport), James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane), Rick Hurst (Deputy Cletus Hogg) and came Sonny Shroyer (Deputy Enos Strate).
Fans travel across the U.S. and Canada to celebrate their love of — or perhaps their — obsession with — the classic television show. On display were more than 250 Dodge Charger General Lees and other vehicles that would have looked perfectly in place in Hazzard Country during the program’s heyday.
Why? If you ask them, they’ll tell you it’s the show’s “family values.” In spite of cousins Bo and Luke Duke’s occasional run-ins with the law, most fans would agree it’s the show’s wholesome principles that keep them tuned in. In its own way, DukesFest strives to keep family values alive while at the same time allowing the fans to relive a fond memory or two.
For Tennessee resident Chris O’Neal Sr., this seems to be the case.
“Oh, I grew up watching ‘em ever since I was a kid,” he said. “Me and my granddaddy used to take little cars and play together. It’s just something I grew up to. When I was a kid, if we weren’t home on Friday night to watch it, I was a fussin’.”
Like O’Neal, many of the biggest Dukes fans can be found on the racetrack standing proudly next to their very own General Lees, huddled under umbrellas while they attempt to keep cool in the 98-degree Nashville weather.
“When I was a kid, it was all about the car,” explained Troy Stallings, who traveled from Illinois to attend the festival. “I painted my first when I got a limited edition Huffy bicycle that my dad bought me that I had to beg for. A week later, I painted it orange and put an ’01′ on it. Yeah, I got beat up a lot in school for that, but now I make up for it with the car.”
Stallings has invested almost $50,000 into his General Lee. Jim Sirotnek, the owner of one of the 17 original General Lee Chargers understands the attraction.
“The Dukes came out when I was about in seventh grade, and that’s a very impressionable time for a seventh grader. You get to looking at girls at that time but mostly cars. I think that show made such an impression on me. I just love cars. I think watching that show at that age really kept it going for me.”
Devout Dukes fan Scott Catron, 37, has been watching the show since he was 8.
“I’m the biggest Dukes fan there is,” he said. “I grew up on it, and I love it — Southern pride. It’s a great American show. I mean, it’s about good people. It’s a good family show.”
Paul Harrington even travels from Ontario, Canada, to attend DukesFest. He’s the proud owner of two General Lees, one Cooter tow trick, a Rosco car and even a Hazzard County boat.
“I bought my first car out of a magazine back in March of ’91,” said Harrington. “And ever since, I’ve been collecting them.”
In addition, fan Gary Capon remembers watching the show as a little boy, growing up on south coast of England.
“We grew up with it as a first generation and the second generation is coming through now,” Capon. “It was just clean family fun. Saturday nights, it was big.”
The list continues, and the stories are endless, but the constant admiration for a television favorite can be seen throughout DukesFest. Here, fans are given another chance to reawaken fond childhood memories by remembering their beloved Hazzard County family.
“Oh, yeah,” one fan noted. “It’s a life thing. Once a Dukes fan, always a Dukes fan.”