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Bandit Run takes Trans Ams through Worthington

Annual event showcases car made popular by 'Smokey and the Bandit'

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A Trans Am Club member displays a Burt Reynolds-signed 1978 Black Gold Special Edition Pontiac Trans Am during the club's Monday, June 14, 2021 stop at Spomer Classics in Worthington. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Lori and David Hershey were watching the movie “Smokey and the Bandit” several years ago when the same thought went running through both their heads.

“What this is a great example of is, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if …,’” Lori said Monday afternoon outside of Spomer Classics, where dozens of Trans Ams were parked during a stop on the annual Bandit Run, which extends this year from Lincoln, Nebraska to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin.

The Hersheys, of Fort Worth, Texas, co-founded the Bandit Run with Dave Hall of Lincoln, who owns and operates Restore a Muscle Car. The trio hosted their first event in 2007, marking the 30th anniversary of the release of “Smokey and the Bandit.” The movie — which starred Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Jackie Gleason and Jerry Reed — is well known for its iconic black Trans Am that plays a prominent role in the film.

David Hershey had purchased a 1977 Trans Am from Hall in 2006.

“We got to talking and became friends, and we thought it would be fun to do something more than just put these cars in shows,” he explained.

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“It was intended to be a one-time thing, but before we got done with the first run people were saying, ‘Where are we going next year?’” Lori added.

That first Bandit Run, fittingly, went from Texarkana, Texas to Atlanta, Georgia, just as in the movie. Bandit Runs that marked the 35th and 40th anniversaries of the film also followed a Texarkana-to-Atlanta route, as will the 2022 event.

“Other years, we pick a part of the country we haven’t gone to,” Lori said.

“We’ve been all over the country … except the extreme west,” David added.

During the 2017 Bandit Run, participants — who can enter and leave the route at any time — visited Jonesboro, Georgia, where David said “Smokey and the Bandit” was filmed. Burt Reynolds was there, he said.

The following year, the Bandit Run drove through Reynolds’ hometown of Jupiter, Florida, and Reynolds signed his autograph on David’s Trans Am,

“That was literally three or four months before he passed,” David said.

Bandit Run participants also forged a connection with actress Susie Ewing, who portrayed the character known as Hot Pants in “Smokey and the Bandit.”

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“We convinced her to come to our 40th anniversary (2017), and she was shocked when she sat there signing autographs for eight hours straight with a line the entire day,” David said.

Other stops on this year’s Bandit Run, which is estimated to feature more than 80 participating Trans Ams, include Red Wing and the Wisconsin communities of Fountain City, LaCrosse and Potosi before the Wisconsin Dells wrap-up. Monday afternoon, meanwhile, the group visited Spomer Classics and received a tour from its owner, Marv Spomer; a drive around Lake Okabena was planned for the early evening.

“Marv has been terrific to work with on this,” said Lori, as she ducked inside Spomer’s collection of automobiles, automotive memorabilia and porcelain/neon dealership signs.

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Members of the Pontiac Trans Am Club take a cruise around Lake Okabena Monday night. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

Ryan McGaughey arrived in Worthington in April 2001 as sports editor of The Daily Globe, and first joined Forum Communications Co. upon his hiring as a sports reporter at The Dickinson (North Dakota) Press in November 1998. McGaughey became news editor in Worthington in November 2002 and editor in August 2006.
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