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April 13, 2011

King City residents welcome Bandit Run

MT. VERNON — Hundreds of area residents descended on the Times Square Mall parking lot on Tuesday evening to welcome the Bandit Run into the city.

The Bandit Run is a reenactment of the Texarkana to Atlanta over the road run made famous in the Smokey and the Bandit movie. The movie told the story of Bo “Bandit” Darville, played by Burt Reynolds, and Cletus “Snowman” Snow, played by Jerry Reed, who were smuggling Coors beer — which was then illegal east of Texas — to Georgia. The first re-enactment of the run took place in 2007, and has become an annual event.

This year the route of the run took a different route, and organizers choose to spend one evening of the eight day trip in Mt. Vernon. Tourism Director Bonnie Jerdon organized a welcome, car cruise and evening reception for the participants and the public.

“I’m happy about all the people that came out,” Jerdon said. “There is a lot of interest in the cars.”

An impromptu car show also started as a result of the planned events, featuring the Kingsmen Car Club and King City Kustom Kruisers.

“We’ve received a great welcome,” Wayne Alderson of Kansas City, Mo., said. Alderson drives the Snowman rig during the run.

“I just started as a bandit runner and worked my way into being the luckiest guy in the world,” Alderson said of driving the huge stagecoach painted rig. “I got the privilege to be Snowman.”

Alderson and his sons ride in the rig during the event — along with their basset hound, Fred.

“We do it as a family,” Alderson said. “Bandit runners come from every state, and when we get together, it’s like we’re a family.”

Alderson and the truck he drives have been featured on the American Truckers television show. Alderson said he has been involved with cars and muscle cars all his life.

“I saw Smokey and the Bandit when I was 7 years old,” Alderson said. “It became a dream to have a Trans Am and drive trucks. Now I’ve done both.”

No Bandit Run would be complete without the nemesis — Sheriff Buford T. Justice. David Betz of St. Joseph, Mo., takes the part seriously, with an authentic costume created especially for the part.

“My grandfather was a sheriff,” Betz said. “Plus, I got married on May 27, 1977, about the same time the movie came out. ... When I found out I wanted to do the Bandit Run, I decided to do this, so I sent a picture to them and see what happens. Last year was my first year as Sheriff Buford T. Justice, and it was so much fun.”

Betz drives a sheriff’s cruiser co-owned by Adam Harder and Clint Clausing of Milwaukee, Wis.

“We’ve had the police car since 2009,” Harder said. “We’ve been with the run in Trans Ams, in 2008, I had a black Trans Am and got stuck behind a bunch of traffic. ... I opened it up, and Clint was having trouble keeping up with me. I left them behind. ... When we stopped in Brandon (Mo.) to get gas, me, Clint and our girlfriends were all laughing about it. He said, ‘if I gotta chase a black Trans Am all around the country, then I’m building a sheriff’s car.’ We found the car in San Antonio with 16,000 original miles on it. We started restoring it on Jan. 1, 2009, and finished on May 5, 2009 — just in time for the 2009 Bandit Run.”

The group, which stayed at the Holiday Inn overnight, headed out this morning, continuing their trek to Braselton, Ga., where they will arrive on April 15.

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