The divide between Texas and Arkansas is usually quiet on most days. State Line Avenue draws its fair share of visitors taking pictures at the post office that’s split between the states. But once every few years, you’ll hear the massive rumbling of muscle cars making their way down this street, all in an effort to recreate the feeling of Smokey and the Bandit. “We started the very first Bandit Run back in 2007. It started right here in Texarkana,” said organizer David Hershey.
Hershey has a serious sweet tooth when it comes to Smokey and The Bandit. The 1977 movie starring Burt Reynolds, Jackie Gleason, Sally Field, and Jerry Reed was smash hit back then, taking second place in ticket sales that year. The top movie? Star Wars of course. “I saw the movie when I was eight years old, and to this day, I can’t figure out why my dad decided to take me and my younger five year old sister to go see Smokey and the Bandit, but I just remember …I literally remember the day that I saw the movie and I remember the movie theater and I remember seeing the car and thinking how cool that was,” Hershey explained. “My theory is he meant to take us to go see Star Wars and the line was long, and he’s not a very patient man.”
That trip to the movies created a lifelong love for a 1977 Pontiac Trans Am. “Always wanted one my whole life. Finally got old enough where I could afford one and get the one that I wanted,” said Hershey.
That was in 2006 and little did he know that when he started that engine it would rev up rally he didn’t see coming. “Next year is the 30-year anniversary of this movie. Isn’t that crazy? What we ought to do is get a bunch of people together and just kind of do a cruise somewhere. And then the idea came about, ‘well, what if we actually did the one like they did in the movie, Texarkana to Atlanta?’” Hershey explained.
David and his buddies expect the turnout they got—30 other people and cars! And with every stop, he said that number only grew. “One of our stops was Talladega, and by the time we got there, we didn’t know it, but there were a lot of people waiting to join us in Talladega. We cracked a hundred cars in Talladega that very first year,” Hershey said.
“It’s so much fun. This is my second time doing it and got my 13-year-old son here with me and just good family trip,” said participant Tom Williams.
“This is the most amazing thing we’re ever going to do. I said, ‘we have to do this every year,’ said participant Lisa Hurd.
This group of Smokey and the Bandit groupies gets together every year but every 5 years they make the run from Texarkana to Atlanta just like The Bandit and Snowman did together in the movie, bootlegging beer across the country. Of course, the law was after Bandit back then, and he still is today. “I’m Sheriff Buford T Justice. Allow me to introduce you to Texas law,” said David Betz impersonating Jackie Gleason’s character from the movie. Betz has been traveling with the group for ten plus years. “First year I did the Bandit Run, everybody was doing Burt, and I went and looked in the mirror and I said, “I think I can pull this off,” Betz explained. “He’s our Buford. He travels with us. He’s got the car and he’ll stand there … He’s out there right now. He’ll stand there all day taking pictures and he just has a blast doing that. He’s a great guy,” Hershey said. “It’s something I look forward to, mingling with the people and everything in every state and everything. It’s genuine. And in Alabama, I had to kiss some babies. It was like, ‘he’s here, please kiss my baby,’ and I said, ‘okay,’” Betz said. Now that’s better than a Diablo sandwich and Dr. Pepper.
“What I love about the movie is it is this good old fashioned, fun,” Hershey said. “I love that you can—I don’t care who you are, you can watch this movie and by the end of the movie, you got a smile on your face. You just can’t help it. It’s just a good time.”
“It’s iconic, it’s fun. It’s just a fun movie about cars,” said participant Tom Williams.
“My son Randy, he’s a big Bandit fan. He watched it. It’s on TV every couple weeks,” said participant Joe Ford.
For some folks, the get together is all about the movie, for others it’s all about the cars. Either way it brings people from all over the country together to celebrate a simpler time. “The ’70s, we were coming out of Vietnam. Music was great, cars were great. Muscle cars were great. Everybody was just happy. It wasn’t a big political scene like it is right now, and I think people just want to go back there and just relive those good times,” said participant Lisa Hurd.
“It’s way more than just a bunch of cars hooting and hollering down the highway,” Hershey explained. “The relationships made and the friendships and what it means to people, that’s our inspiration every year.”