Mayberry Idle becoming a big hit

First Posted: 9/25/2009

With the ever-growing popularity of American Idol, the local version that only occurs during Mayberry Days has grown in recent years to overwhelming popularity.
The tribute artist playing Howard Sprague, Jeff Branch, will be the emcee for Mayberry Idle again this year, making this his third year.
Sign-ups for the event began Friday at the Mayberry Days Information booth at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. Registrations will continue today. The show starts at 3 p.m. today at the Blackmon Amphitheatre. The winners will perform at Colonel Tims Talent Time at 7:30 p.m. at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. That show has already been sold out.
Weve had some from West Virginia. I know one guy, him and his mother, drove all the way up from Florida. Theyve been here the last two years. Thats what they come up here for, Branch said.
This years Mayberry Idle will be different in that, while there have always been judges, a head judge, Drew Joyce, will lead the judges in commentary and discussion between acts.
This year, it will be more like American Idol. We are going to have one judge who leads the discussion among the other judges. Weve never had judges comments or anything. I think it will make it a little more interesting. But there will not be a Simon Cowell. This is Mayberry, we are going to be nice, Branch said.
He said unlike American Idol, performers bring a variety of talent to the stage.
Its a lot of fun and you get a variety of things. You get vocals, people playing instruments, you have people telling funny stories. Theres some really great entertainment, said Branch.
He said last year there was a special performance by a young man in a wheelchair.
He was struggling doing his part, but he loves Mayberry and he was doing a song with Mayberry in it. I work with kids and I felt a tear coming down it will touch you.
Branch is a Montgomery County Sheriffs Deputy and a D.A.R.E. officer.
They asked if I would come help out because I emcee at a lot of major bluegrass festival, so I think thats why I got asked to do it.
He said David Browning, who is a Barney Fife tribute artist, got him into playing the role of Howard Sprague. He starting playing the role in 2000 and has been back to Mayberry Days every years since.
Ironically, one of his former D.A.R.E. students is Kelly Pickler of American Idol fame.
I just think Mayberry Idle is a unique way to see the talent that is out there. You never know when you are going to see the next possible American Idol right here in Mount Airy.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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