By Joel Hall
"Smokey and the Bandit" fans, along with muscle car afficionados, may once again witness the Bandit Run as it rolls through Jonesboro this Friday.
The 2008 Bandit Run will begin on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio, bringing together die-hard "Smokey and the Bandit" fans from around the country for a 600-mile drive to YearOne in Braselton, Ga. They will be riding in Trans Ams, GTOs, Mustangs, and other muscle cars featured in the movie.
Throughout the week, the tour will cruise through the Appalachian Mountains, making stops in Charleston, W.Va., the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn., and the Dillard House in Dillard, Ga.
On Friday, some 60 muscle car drivers will come through Clayton County and Jonesboro to tour several of the places where scenes from the 1977 Burt Reynolds film were shot.
Last year, 25 drivers chose to take the optional Bandit Run Movie Tour in Jonesboro. It was organized by Tyler Hambrick of Newnan. The success of last year's tour has resulted in 60 riders planning to spend the day in Jonesboro. They will view the real-life locations where "Bo Darville" (Burt Reynolds), "Frog" (Sally Field), and "Snowman" (Jerry Reed) made daring escapes from Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason) and Sheriff George Branford (George Reynolds). Bo and his friends were trying to smuggle hundreds of cases of Coors beer across the country.
"It went really well," said Hambrick. "They really liked the small town hospitality. That's one reason why this year [attendance is] double. Last year, they were like, 'man, I wish I would have done that.'"
Some of the locations include downtown Jonesboro -- used to represent Texarkana, Texas; Mundy's Mill Road in Jonesboro -- where Bo Darville picked up Frog in her wedding dress, and the stop light, just south of Mundy's Mill High School, where Sheriff Branford set up his roadblock.
New to the tour this year, all of the drivers will stop for lunch at Butch's Chicken House in Jonesboro. Around noon, the public will be able to eat with the riders and view their classic and modern muscle cars in the parking lot.
Butch's Owner Gail Glancy said the restaurant staff is excited about the business the riders will bring, and is preparing for the day with extra waitresses and cooks.
"We're very excited," said Glancy. "We are looking very much forward to it, and we know there is going to be a lot of publicity from it. We are going to be prepared and they are going to be well-provided-for."
The Jonesboro Police Department will be on call to manage any possible traffic issues which may arise from having the large number of drivers in the downtown area.
Police Maj. Brad Johnson said he welcomes the Bandit Run and believes it will be good for business. "We welcome tourism," said Johnson. "Any kind of thing that brings people into the city of Jonesboro in a positive way ... we like that."
For more information about the Bandit Run, visit www.yearone.com.