SHENANDOAH — Page County was transformed into Hazzard Nation this month, when more than 10,000 visitors descended on the Valley to celebrate four decades of the iconic television show “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
In total, the two-day Good ol’ Boys Fest, held just north of Shenandoah at the Shenandoah Speedway, saw about 16,000 ticket-holders walk through admissions lines — a number more than six times larger than the town of Shenandoah’s population.
Held on Aug. 10- 11, the festival featured children’s activities, cast meet-and-greets, live music, General Lee rides and two main events — Grammy-winner Wynonna Judd and The Big Noise on Saturday followed by Keith King’s BMX Bikes and Stunts Grand Finale on Sunday.
Saturday drew the largest crowd, with about 9,000, according to event organizer Alma Viator, while Sunday saw about 7,000. Many of the attendees came out for both days of festivities.
The latest festival marked the second large-scale event since Cooter’s Place — owned by Viator and husband, Ben Jones, who portrayed “Cooter” in the 1980s CBS show “The Dukes of Hazzard” — made the move three years ago from Sperryville to just west of Luray on Va. 211. The couple additionally sponsors several smaller events each year, including a Shenandoah Jamboree concert series.
In 2017, Jones and Viator organized a “Cooter’s Last Stand” event that drew more than 20,000 people from almost every U.S. state and 11 countries. Billed as the final installment in the decades-long annual “DukesFest” series, the festival featured cast members, stunts and the show’s iconic orange 1969 Dodge Charger dubbed the “General Lee” — most of which returned to Page County on Aug. 10 and 11.
“Once again Hazzard Nation and Page County really go together — and [the Shenandoah Speedway] was the ideal place,” said Viator, adding that adjacent fields were rented from property owners to accommodate parking and the event’s music stage. “We love being [in Page County] — and we’ve never looked back for a second. It’s meant to be.
“All of our neighboring businesses, the chamber, restaurants, I think we really help feed each other and support each other,” she continued. “I’m hoping we can help be a part of the continued growth of tourism in the area.”
Shenandoah Town Manager Juanita Roudabush echoed that sentiment.
“They have been so good for our economy — for the whole county and even beyond that,” she said, noting that surrounding areas including Harrisonburg also welcomed an influx of visitors thanks to the festival.
With no hotels or large-scale lodging available in Shenandoah, most festival-goers made their way through Elkton or over the Massanutten Mountain to connect to U.S. 340. While traffic remained steady throughout the day, with the heaviest congestion occurring in the morning when gates opened, 340 saw no major back-ups or congestion. Local law enforcement officers helped direct traffic in and out of the facility, with traffic splitting in multiple lanes at the speedway’s entrance.
Page County EMS, the Shenandoah Police Department and the Page County Sheriff’s Office — which helped plan and staff the event — reported no major incidents. Dozens of deputies, police officers and EMS officials were on tap both days, with emergency stations setup throughout the area.
Viator commended those efforts, as well as the town of Shenandoah’s.
“It was a tremendous amount of help, particularly from Shenandoah,” said Viator. “They knocked themselves out and were so happy to have something in their end of the county.”
Town employees, local organizations and other residents volunteered throughout the weekend.
In conjunction with the festival Shenandoah held a free Hazzard-themed installment of its summer Cruz-In series on Aug. 9, to help kick off the celebration. Sponsored by Cooter’s Place, the event drew record-breaking numbers, with more than 100 vehicles and several hundred visitors.
Following the Cruz-In, town officials teamed up with Jones and Viator to debut the film “Hazzard Nation,” a documentary marking the show’s 40th anniversary. That event also drew several hundred, including Catherine Bach, who portrayed Bo and Duke’s cousin Daisy Duke.
The Friday events combined with the weekend festival infused thousands of dollars into Shenandoah’s economy. Page County as a whole also saw the event’s economic impact, with about 90% of the county’s lodging — including campsites, hotels, motels and cabins or other rentals — booked over the course of the weekend, according to county officials.
The local chamber estimates that Page County — Virginia’s “Cabin Capital” — includes between 400 and 450 cabins.
The town’s restaurants and eateries saw a spike in business throughout the weekend, according to town officials, with some “running out of supplies,” said Roudabush — “which isn’t a bad problem to have.”
“Overall it was the biggest weekend ever for our town,” Roudabush added. “It was a great family event for our community, and we hope that Alma and Ben would consider a similar event in the future at [the Shenandoah Speedway]. We thank them for all the tourism and events they bring to Page County because what’s good for one is good for all.”
Along with the town of Shenandoah, the Luray-Page County Chamber of Commerce was on hand with brochures, info and guides throughout the weekend at a welcome booth. Nearly 1,000 visitors stopped by over the course of the two days to find out more about the area, according to Chamber President Gina Hilliard. In total the chamber’s staff handed out about 500 copies of its annual visitor’s guide during the event.
“Events like Cooter’s Good ol’ Boys Fest play an important role in destination development,” Hilliard said. “It brings our community together and fosters a feeling of community pride. It raises the profile of our towns and county and the enthusiasm and support from locals.”