19 things you didn’t know about Atlanta’s past

Smokey and the Bandit II blew up Atlanta’s most famous roller coaster

Southeastern Fair
1969: During the heyday at the Southeastern Fair at Lakewood Park.

Photograph courtesy of the Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center

Before Atlanta had major league sports teams or aquariums, families flocked to Lakewood Park for the Southeastern Fair, established in 1915 and styled after the successful Cotton States Exposition of 1895. The iconic Spanish Colonial pavilions hosted baking contests and prize-winning cows, while the adjoining Lakewood Speedway featured high-speed pursuits from horse racing to the nation’s first NASCAR series in 1951. A highlight from 1916 to 1974 was a wooden roller coaster called the Greyhound, but after attendance dwindled, the condemned coaster was spectacularly exploded in the final scene of the 1980 sequel to Smokey and the Bandit.