Downtown Mount Airy will be transformed into something resembling a big farm this weekend, including tractors, animals and related attractions not normally seen there.
That’s when the annual Mayberry Farm Fest will roll into town – literally – beginning with tractor and kids’ parades Friday evening and continuing Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with live music, dancing, arts and crafts vendors and many other activities.
Farm Fest is a celebration of farming and agricultural traditions that pays homage to Surry County’s rich agricultural heritage.
The family-friendly event has been held off and on in downtown Mount Airy for at least the past decade and, similar to a well-cultivated cornfield, seems to yield a fun harvest each spring.
“It’s definitely growing year by year,” said Jennie Lowry of the Downtown Business Association, which presents Farm Fest in association with seven area businesses.
To accommodate the festival, North Main Street will be barricaded from Oak to Pine streets.
“We’ll begin closing the street before the parade comes through on Friday afternoon,” Lowry said.
There will a heavy emphasis on nostalgia as well as agricultural awareness.
“I think people like to reminisce,” Gail Hiatt of the downtown store Mount Airy Tractor-Toyland, who is one of the coordinators for Mayberry Farm Fest, said of how many older residents of the area grew up on farms.
In that vein, the event will feature exhibits of classic farm vehicles and equipment, demonstrations of traditional activities such as blacksmithing and agricultural and horticultural displays. Along with arts and crafts vendors, antique vendors have been added to the lineup this year.
A watermelon seed-spitting contest also is planned, and Franklin Street – also to be closed to traffic – will be the site of children’s activities including pony rides and mechanical bull riding, with a live steer to be displayed there, also.
Hiatt said people who have farmed tobacco might be interested in the presence of a restored Hawk tobacco stringer that its owner will display during the event.
Mayberry Farm Fest kicks off Friday at 6 p.m. with a tractor parade, which has become one of the most popular segments of the event – especially with younger audiences.
“The kids love anything with wheels that turn,” Hiatt said. “I mean, they’re just amazed at tractors.”
Older tractors tend to be featured in the annual procession through the downtown district. In addition to those owned by local folks, “people come to bring their tractors to this parade from out of state,” Lowry said.
“The parade is very popular and the kids and adults love to see the tractors come down the street.”
Fifty-plus tractors are expected, which after the parade will be displayed along North Main Street and judged for a contest.
The Vintage Tractor Award Ceremony will conclude Mayberry Farm Fest activities at 6 p.m. Saturday, with trophies to be awarded in the categories of “Hardest-Worked,” “Best Restoration,” “Most Original” and “Oldest” – in addition to a “People’s Choice” award for farm and lawn tractors.
Immediately after the Friday tractor parade, a kids’ ride-on parade is planned, which Hiatt said typically includes battery-operated tractors, Gators and other means of conveyance geared toward youthful participants.
“We have one little boy who brings his pedal tractor every year and pedals.”
The traditional music offerings that have become a huge part of the annual Farm Fest gathering will be enhanced by the appearance of The Whitetop Mountain Band this year.
“They’ve never come to the festival before,” Lowry said of a unique old-time group that is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains. It has built a tremendous following among square dances all over North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky.
Music will begin Saturday at 10 a.m. with impromptu jams and then performances by Lonesome Prairie Dogs and Billy C. Smith at 11 a.m. and noon, respectively, during the weekly Merry Go Round show at the Earle Theatre. It is broadcast by radio station WPAQ (740 am).
Afterward, music and other events will be staged at an entertainment tent set up in front of Mayberry Antique Mall, where activities are planned throughout the afternoon including The Whitetop Mountain Band.
Also scheduled are demonstrations by the Rhythmic Expression Cloggers, the Mayberry Squares Western Square Dancers and the Blue Ridge Entertainers line dancers.
Cakewalks will be held every hour Saturday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., with the watermelon seed-spitting contest set for 3 p.m.
The Mayberry Farm Fest Quilt Show also will be conducted for the third year in a row, with rosette ribbons to be awarded during a 5:45 p.m. ceremony at the entertainment tent. The show itself is to take place all day from the former Mayberry Embroidery location next to the Rees clothing store.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.