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Fillmore County leaves lasting impression on visiting celebrity
By Bretta Grabau
, Bluff Country News Group
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 8:38 AM
John Schneider, best known for his work on “Dukes of Hazzard,” toured the Preston, Harmony and Lanesboro areas for a few days at the beginning of July, appreciating the beauty and serenity of the area. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Life can be full of surprises. That's probably what a lot of people thought a few weeks ago as they may have seen a celebrity running around Preston, Lanesboro and Harmony.
Many people may be familiar with John Schneider who played Bo Duke in the television series "Dukes of Hazzard," "Smallville" and various other shows and movies. This celebrity graced southeastern Minnesota with his presence at the beginning of July, accompanying Jack Skaggs to his summer home in Preston.
"John and I have been friends for 24 plus years, since the Christmas of 1990. I was on highway patrol and was one of only two getting food at this one stop. He was the other one. We became real good friends. We had been planning on a road trip for years," Skaggs explained.
Over the years, work and other commitments stood in the way of the trip, but at this particular time, Schneider was in between movies and shows. Because the time was right, Skaggs persuaded his friend to plan on a road trip.
Although he has lived much of his life in California, Schneider now lives in a Bayou in Louisiana. While filming the "Haves and Have Nots" television series in Georgia, he heard about some land in Louisiana and bought it, renting out the property.
"He records the sounds for sound effects in different movies and has water moccasins and alligators in the lake next to his home. He does movies on 50 to 60 of his acres. He recently directed and produced a reverse horror movie 'Smothered' there, which will be coming out in theaters in the next few months," Skaggs commented.
After Schneider moved to Louisiana, Skaggs remained in California, but they had yet to fulfill their plans of a road trip. However, Skaggs came up with an idea.
"He lives 50 miles from New Orleans. I told him I'd drive out from California and we would take a road trip to Minnesota. He said 'Let's do it!'" Skaggs noted.
After a 1,000-mile trek from New Orleans, the two arrived in Preston on Monday, June 30. The biggest attraction for Schneider happened to be the golf courses in both Preston and Lanesboro.
"We played golf at the Old Barn twice and once in Lanesboro," Skaggs said. "John could live on the golf course. We basically just played golf."
Though they spent a lot of time golfing, they still did get to tour some of the area, traveling to Harmony to see the theater there and visit the Amish. But of course, they had to tour Preston as well.
"We walked around Preston and ate at the Sweet Shoppe. A few people recognized him here and one person said he looked a lot like John Schneider. He just said, 'A lot of people say that.' He said he would have told the person who he was if he had asked," Skaggs laughed.
Skaggs himself owns a small summer home by the Preston pool, but he has spent time here during almost all of the seasons in the six or seven years since he has owned the house. He initially heard of the place from his brother who works for the sheriff's department here in Preston.
"I came here to visit and he told me about the house. I bought the house and spent a week or two in it, but it was very small and old. We built an addition on," he said. "I love spending time out here. It is really nice."
Schneider stayed with Skaggs for a few days before flying home to Louisiana to sing in a jazz festival in New Orleans.
Since Skaggs' brother resides in Preston, the two men also spent some time at his house for a barbecue. And because Skaggs' brother works for the sheriff's department, the opportunity availed itself to visit the sheriff's office.
"He took some photos next to the police car and he really enjoyed it," Skaggs related.
As they explored the surrounding area and continued golfing during Schneider's five-day stay in Preston, the most difficult issue for him to deal with was the temperature.
"It's so hot and humid in Louisiana, like 90 to 95 degrees with 90 percent humidity,” Skaggs explained. “He was so cold here with 60 degrees because he was not used to it."
Even with the cool temperatures, Schneider was able to experience one of Minnesota's thunderstorms that have been frequenting the Midwest so often this summer.
As the week progressed, Skaggs and Schneider continued to become familiar with the area. They visited city hall, the drug store and the tourist attractions in Preston and investigated Lanesboro. Many people in both the Old Barn and Lanesboro knew who he was. He even began showing outtakes on his phone to a commercial he had recently filmed with Tom Wopat as Luke Duke to people in Lanesboro.
But one day Schneider got a special treat. Skaggs brother received a phone call from the chief of police in Rushford about his cousin's family. This family had a "General Lee" and wanted to have him sign it. Schneider agreed and met up with the family.
"The family had named their kids after the Dukes of Hazzard, one was Luke and the other Bo and they named their dog 'Flash,'" Skaggs stated. "John was impressed with their 'General Lee' and said it was the best one he had ever seen. So he said the best spot to sign was on the firewall under the hood rather than usually signing the glove box."
Schneider signed pictures and the car for the family and afterwards went out to eat with them.
"John commented that they were a very nice family," Skaggs said.
Though Schneider was only in the area for a few days, the trip left a lasting impression on him.
"We were on the hill in Lanesboro and saw the fields. And John said, 'It doesn't get any more Americana than this.' He would love to come back here sometime," Skaggs stated. "If he ever has a concert in Minnesota, he will definitely come back."
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