Anniversary Bandit Run Kicks Off in Texarkana
April 26, 2012 By: Arkansas Parks and Tourism; Nita Fran Hutcheson, Main Street 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 and keeps the muscle car dream alive!
The route begins in Texarkana on May 14 and covers 995 miles and five states, wrapping up just outside of Atlanta, GA on May 19. The convoy includes more than 125 cars, many of them Trans Ams resembling the car driven by Burt 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 Cletus Snow, also known as Snowman (Jerry Reed), in the movie. Other movie characters were Frog (Sally Fields), Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), and Fred the Bassett Hound.
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, and 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 in Texarkana 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 and returns to the original.
“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 two-day festivities designed for the whole family.
On Saturday (May 12) a Muscle Car "Convoy" is slated for 10 a.m. starting at Holiday Inn Express/Crossroads Park and travelling down the I-30 access road to Kings Highway, crossing to the other side and returning down the access road to State Line Avenue. The cars will then be escorted down State Line, around the Post Office to Broad Street and park near the Four States Auto Museum and Arkansas Municipal Auditorium. Other activities include RailFest which celebrates Texarkana’s railroad history and founding. It's scheduled from 11am-11pm all on Front Street complete with BBQ Cookoff, kids activities, and ending with headliner Diamond Rio and fireworks. Admission for RailFest is $3.00 with kids under 12 free. Evening admission is $15.00. Also on Saturday, the Four States Auto Museum hosts their 7th Annual Spring Classic Car Show; and the new Lindsey Railroad Museum on Broad Street is set to open in conjunction with National Train Day. Free Amtrak 40th Anniversary Souvenirs will be given away.
On Sunday (May 13), Main Street Texarkana hosts a FREE Bandit Fun-Day with the Bandit cars parked on Front Street around Festival Plaza. Festivities include 6 rock bands, a beer garden, food court, a kids' area with bounce houses, miniature train rides, and balloon magic, plus free trolley rides around downtown. The Four States Auto Museum will be open as will the Lindsey Railroad Museum and various downtown businesses/restaurants. The evening will end with Headliner Robert St. John Band and an outdoor showing of "Smokey and the Bandit." The group starts their 995-mile journey at 9 a.m. on Monday (May 14) with a send off by the public waving flags, and semi's from area trucking companies lining Hwy 67 blowing horns.
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 first) because you can have your picture taken while standing in two states at the Downtown Federal Courts Building/Post Office! 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 Arkansas Municipal Auditorium stars Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley!
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 named after three states: Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana – due to a misguided engineer who thought Louisiana was just down the road.
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, then travel south and be in Texas,” added Debbie Haak, a Texarkana resident and Arkansas 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 the twin cities. “Texarkana in the movie was a sound stage in Atlanta, GA. Texarkana today is as real as it gets, and we want all ages to come enjoy really great time.”
The 2012 Bandit Run is organized by Restore a Muscle Car out of Lincoln, Nebraska and hosted by Main Street Texarkana. For further Bandit Run details visit www.restoreamusclecar.com and www.thebanditrun.com. For more information on Texarkana check out www.mainstreettexarkana.org, call 903.277.4603, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism; Nita Fran Hutcheson, Main Street Texarkana