‘Summertime down South’ - ‘Dukes of Hazzard’-themed event expected to draw more than 10,000 in July

Page News and Courier

LURAY ― Duke fandom will reign this summer when multiple cast members and countless orange cars convene in Page County for “Cooter's Last Stand.”

Between 10,000 and 20,000 are expected for the two-day event in July that celebrates the 1980s hit television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.” Featuring more than a dozen bands, Civil War re-enactments, wrestling and stunts, the festivities will commence for the first time in Luray, after Cooter's Place made the move from Sperryville to its new home on Route 211 last fall.

Following events held each year in locations including Bristol and Nashville, Tenn., “Cooter's Last Stand” will officially end more than a decade's worth of “DukesFest” installments.

“We just felt that it was the time,” said Alma Viator, who operates Cooter's Place with her husband, Ben “Cooter” Jones. “We will continue to have many events at Cooter's in the future, but nothing of this size again.”

More than 5,000 tickets have been sold so far, with attendance expected to total more than 10,000, said Viator. DukesFest hit an all-time attendance high in 2007 and 2008, when “Hazzard Nation” drew between 70,000 and 100,000 thanks to nationwide advertising and media sponsor CMT. In contrast, continued Viator, “Cooter's Last Stand” has so far been advertised solely through social media, and will cap out at about 20,000, due to a smaller venue.

The event will take place in a field behind Cooter's Place on Route 211. Through arrangements with adjacent property owners, guests will park in nearby fields and then be shuttled, said Viator. Event organizers are currently in discussions with county officials, local law enforcement, the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce and VDOT to determine safety and traffic issues. Organizers will hire off-duty local law enforcement officers, added Viator, in addition to general security officers.

“Uncle Jesse's rules apply: No 'likker,' no cussin' and no fightin,'” Jones, who portrayed “Cooter” on the CBS show, wrote in a note posted to the event's Facebook page. “Bring a blanket or a folding chair and come ready for Summertime down South.”

County officials during the supervisors' April 17 meeting noted that many hotels, motels and cabins in Page County have already reported being sold out for the event.

“It's going to be a full weekend, with just a handful of places left open to rent,” said President of the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce Gina Hilliard, adding that many attendees are now booking lodging in Harrisonburg, Front Royal and New Market.

The local Chamber is asking cabin owners who still have availability to contact staff members so that they may direct those inquiring about lodging.

“There's a potential for the economic impact to be huge throughout the county,” added Hilliard. “With lodging booked up, we anticipate a spillover, with people visiting restaurants, shops and attractions while they're here.”

The Luray-Page Chamber will be setting up and staffing an information booth at the event both days, in addition to maintaining staff both days at its Visitors Center in Downtown Luray.

“We just love the idea of everybody profiting from this. We appreciate so much the welcome we've had in this county,” said Viator. “Many are making the event a centerpiece for their vacation, and will be staying in the area before and after. We're happy that everybody benefits.”

Cooter's Last Stand will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, and on Sunday, July 30. “Dukes of Hazzard” cast members Schneider, Tom Wopat, Catherine Bach, Sonny Shroyer and Rick Hurst, in addition to Jones, are expected. Perhaps the show's main star, the Duke's orange 1969 Dodge Charger, dubbed the General Lee, will be prevalent throughout the weekend, with about 65 already registered for a “Hazzard County Car Show.”

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