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‘Deliverance’ star Billy Redden visits Lakewood 400 Antique Market in Forsyth for film’s 50th anniversary
Billy Redden
From the left, Billy Redden, Greg Spivia and Kip Ramey celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1972 film "Deliverance" at the Lakewood 400 Antiques Market on Saturday, Aug. 20. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Billy Redden posed with a banjo at Lakewood 400 Antiques Market as he took photos with fans surprised to see one of the most memorable actors from the 1972 film “Deliverance.”

He and Kip Ramey, a longtime friend and folk artist, came to Forsyth County on Saturday, Aug. 20, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a film they said changed their lives.

Fans came up to them in droves to meet Redden, famous for his role as Lonnie the Banjo Boy, and purchase pieces of Ramey’s art featuring the unforgettable Dueling Banjos scene from the film.

Redden and Ramey said they were surprised at the number of fans who stopped by to say hello during the market, showing there is still an interest in “Deliverance” and the Banjo Boy after 50 years.

“It feels good,” Redden said.

Most of the movie was filmed in Rabun County and Redden was one of the only county natives cast for a role. He worked with Jon Voight, Burt Reynolds and Ned Beatty — all of whom Ramey said were able to kick off their acting careers through the film.

Redden remembers the movie as one of the best things to happen to him.

“It’s amazing that it’s still here, still relevant and people still remember,” Ramey said. “It’s a cult classic, and [Redden] was really the face of it.”

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Billy Redden
Folk artist Kip Ramey and Billy Redden sold prints and autographs for the 50th anniversary of "Deliverance." - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Greg and Amy Spivia, owners of the Lakewood 400 Antiques Market, said they invited Redden and Ramey to come to the market this month for the 50th anniversary of “Deliverance” because the movie also holds a special place in their hearts.

Greg Spivia’s dad, Ed, headed the state’s department of tourism when the movie began filming in north Georgia.

He remembers his dad waking up one Saturday morning when he was 6 or 7 years old, asking if he wanted to go with him to Rabun County to watch the production crews in action. But as they traveled to set, Ed Spivia was also looking at how filming in the area had an impact on local businesses.

“We got there, and all the hotels were booked up, all the restaurants were full, they were hiring people in the community to work on the movie,” Greg Spivia said.

He said his dad knew then that he wanted to bring more film productions to Georgia to help boost local economies throughout the state. He approached Jimmy Carter, who was governor of Georgia at the time, to form the Georgia Film Commission.

He became Georgia’s first film commissioner and brought many more productions to the state, eventually co-authoring legislation that allowed a tax break to productions filming in Georgia.

Later, Ed Spivia left the film commission and leased the Lakewood Fairgrounds in south Atlanta with a plan to use the land for his own movie studio. But as the project began to suffer financially, he opened Lakewood 400 Antiques Market in Atlanta to make money he could invest back into the film industry.

Vendors came from all over to sell antiques and art, and Greg Spivia said it became the third largest show in the United States.

“It was huge,” Greg said. “They would have 25,000 people show up.”

The market remained in Atlanta for 20 years before moving to Forsyth County. EUE/Screen Gem Studios purchased the lease in Atlanta and has since built a studio at the Lakewood Fairgrounds.

“His dream of it becoming a studio has come true, and he’s got an antique market now,” Greg Spivia said.

Now, Spivia runs the antique market with his wife, Amy, while watching the clear impact his dad made on the state. Not only is Georgia home to several movie studios, but is now known by many as the “Hollywood of the south,” with a thriving film industry.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced earlier this month that film and television productions spent $4.4 billion in Georgia over the 2022 fiscal year, with the state hosting 412 productions represented by 32 feature films, 36 independent films, 269 television and episodic productions, 42 commercials and 33 music videos.

“That trip that Saturday morning up to [Rabun County] to see ‘Deliverance’ has turned into $4.4 billion worth of motion picture productions,” Greg Spivia said. “That little trip …. has come a long way. We have an antique market to show for it and the movie industry in Georgia to show for it.”

Greg and Amy Spivia felt the 50th anniversary of “Deliverance” was the perfect way to honor Greg’s dad and the antique market, which has been open for nearly 40 years.

“It changed our lives, so we owe a lot to this old movie,” Greg Spivia said.

The Lakewood 400 Antique Market is open every third weekend of the month at 1321 Atlanta Highway in Cumming. More than 500 vendors set up shop to sell antiques, art, crafts and other unique items.

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Ramey said that he and Redden will be traveling across north Georgia for other appearances to celebrate the movie’s 50th anniversary.

Redden will be signing autographs and taking photos with fans in Dillard at R.M. Rose and Company Distillers from noon to 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 17, where they will be selling a “Deliverance” themed moonshine.

Ramey will be back in Forsyth County for an art show on Saturday, Nov. 26. For more information, follow him on Instagram at KRameyArt.