Car enthusiasts kick off Bandit Run in Texarkana
Arkansas is set to be the starting line for the 2012 Bandit Run, the annual re-enactment of the legendary drive featured in the 1977 Burt Reynolds "Smokey and the Bandit" movie that made the Pontiac Trans Am a superstar.
The route begins in Texarkana on May 14 and covers 995 miles and five states, wrapping up just outside of Atlanta on May 19. The convoy includes more than 100 cars, many of them Trans Ams resembling the car driven by Reynolds' character, Bandit.
In addition to the famous black Pontiac Trans Am, the Bandit Run also features a meticulously re-created semi-trailer like the one driven by his buddy Cledus Snow, also known as Snowman (Jerry Reed), in the movie.
The movie was one of the highest grossing films of 1977, just behind "Star Wars". "Everyone remembers and loves the "Smokey and the Bandit" movie," said Michelle Hall of Restore a Muscle Car, a Nebraska company that rebuilds and restores classic muscle cars. "When the Bandit Run comes to town, it brings with it happy memories of a lost era. The participants have become a family. Many of these people have gone on the run every year. There are people from all over the U.S. and some from other countries; however, there are no cultural, socioeconomic or age barriers at play. The participants enjoy coming together to celebrate the movie and their cars and to forge lasting friendships."
The Bandit Run started five years ago by Restore a Muscle Car owner Dave Hall as a way of marking the 30th anniversary of the movie. The event was so successful the group decided to plan another trip. It's since become an annual event, with a different route chosen every year as a means to see different parts of the country.
This year's route is a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the film.
"All vehicles are welcome to participate," added Hall. "You don't have to drive a Pontiac Trans Am to be a part of it."
"Bandit Weekend" in Texarkana is scheduled for May 12-13 and the race officially starts the morning of May 14. Around 200 participants (and over 100 cars) are expected to take part in the Run.
On Saturday (May 12) a Muscle Car Parade is slated for 10 a.m. After the parade, the Bandit Run vehicles will be on display downtown on Front Street. RailFest (which celebrates Texarkana's railroad history and founding) will take place all day on the other side of Front Street and The Tex-Ark Antique Car Club will hostian all day car show. A new railroad museum, owned and operated by nationally recognized historian Dr. Beverly Rowe, is also set to open May 12 at the start of RailFest.
On Sunday (May 13) the Bandit cars will be parked by the Arkansas Municipal Auditorium. The Four States Auto Museum is hosting a cruise-in and a special screening of "Smokey and the Bandit" is also on the day's agenda. There will also be appearances by special guests. The cars start their 995-mile journey at 9 a.m. on Monday (May 14).
For many, this is a first visit to Texarkana. "If you've never been to Texarkana you're in for a surprise," said Nita-Fran Hutcheson, Executive Director of Main Street Texarkana. "We're a bit quirky and one of only two cities in the U.S. divided by a man-made state line. We have the second most photographed federal building in the U.S. (the Supreme Court is the first) since you can stand in two states and have your picture taken in front of it. We have the only historic home in the country that's built in the shape of an Ace of Clubs (Draughon-Moore House); and we are a mecca for music with roots going back to native sons Scott Joplin and Conlon Nancarrow, the Black Territorial Bands from Red River Arsenal, plus Johnny Cash and Elvis' first appearances at the Arkansas Municipal Auditorium."
The city is sometimes called Texarkana USA because it's actually two towns with the same name-one in Arkansas; one in Texas. Tex-ark-ana is also named after three states: Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The geography of the town also stands out. "You will not find another place in the U.S. where you can travel on one highway north and be in Arkansas and travel south and be in Texas," added Debbie Haak, a Texarkana resident and State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commissioner.
In the end, the focus of the event is to stay true to the spirit of the movie and to enjoy the experience. "This is really exciting," said Hutcheson about the Bandit Run starting in town. "Texarkana in the movie was a sound stage in Atlanta. Texarkana today is as real as it gets and we want all ages to have a really great time."
This event is organized by Restore a Muscle Car out of Lincoln, Nebraska. For further Bandit Run details visit restoreamusclecar.com and thebanditrun.com. For more information on Texarkana check out mainstreettexarkana.org.