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Dukefest at Cooter's Place

Sunday, August 3, 2003; Page M10

Where: Sperryville, Va.

Why: "Dukes of Hazzard" mania! Bluegrass, classic General Lees and a "Hazzardous Stunt Show."

How Far: 50 miles from Manassas, or about an hour.

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Gentlemen, start your engines, and ladies, get out those short-shorts: Next weekend, you can motor on down the aptly named Lee Highway to step back into TV history and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the "Dukes of Hazzard" at the annual Dukefest at Cooter's Place in Sperryville.

Cooter's -- the 5-year-old roadside attraction owned and operated by actor-turned-congressman Ben Jones, who played ace mechanic Cooter -- will feature a handful of original cast members (including James Best, aka Sherriff Rosco P. Coltrane), an antique car show, live bluegrass and, of course, Cooter's respectable collection of memorabilia (remember that "Dukes" lunchbox?). A Saturday-evening performance will also feature some of the show's original stunt drivers "rolling a few cars," Jones says.

Kick off your trip down memory lane at Manassas's Old Country Buffet, where you can fill up on all-you-can-eat pancakes, hash browns, scrambled eggs and sausage. Once on the road, stop in Gainesville to load up on gas before heading to the hills. Fauquier County's Lake Brittle will give you a chance to stretch your legs, or stop in Warrenton's Old Town to see one of Virginia's oldest remaining jails (now a museum).

No trip to Rappahannock County would be complete without a walk around the town of Washington. It's home to the famed five-star restaurant at the Inn at Little Washington, the organic Sunnyside Market and a handful of galleries. As you enter Sperryville, you can pull off the road to get a catfish sandwich or milkshake at Burgers N Things, but be prepared to eat in the car -- there are no tables.

Cooter's Place is open year-round. Admission to Dukefest is free, but the stunt car show is $10 per person. Parking is free along designated areas off Highway 211; free shuttles will deliver folks to Cooter's (11691 Lee Highway, 540-987-8545, www.cootersplace.com). Liz Kelly

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