No genie — Barbara Eden — will be coming out of the bottle again for Mayberry Days in Mount Airy later this month, but organizers say the event’s celebrity lineup will still be magical.
One of the headliners is Clint Howard, the actor who played Leon, the peanut butter sandwich-munching boy on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Howard, the brother of Ron Howard (Opie), made his first appearance at Mayberry Days in 2015 and is returning this year.
The event, now in its 27th year, is scheduled for Sept. 21-25 by the Surry Arts Council as a celebration of the long-running television series and all things Mayberry, including its memorable characters.
Other celebrities who will be part of the festivities are Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), on the heels of her recent 90th-birthday celebration; Ronnie Schell; Rodney Dillard; Maggie Peterson; Margaret Kerry; Ronnie Dapo; Laura Hagen; and Karen Knotts.
“We’re really excited that Clint and Ronnie Dapo are coming back,” Surry Arts Council Executive Director Tanya Jones said Thursday.
“Clint was very memorable in his role,” Jones said of the cowboy-suit-wearing Leon, “and Ronnie was in two really great episodes.”
Dapo portrayed a character named Arnold Winkler, a friend of Opie’s, in episodes including “Opie and the Spoiled Kid” and “The Haunted House.”
“Since both had not done a Mayberry event before, we feel really good that they are coming back,” Jones said of Howard and Dapo.
Howard, as he was last year, will be the featured guest for Professor Brower’s Lecture, a regular Mayberry Days program that takes an in-depth look at what makes “The Andy Griffith Show” so great.
“Clint really enjoyed it,” Jones said of Howard’s participation in 2015.
The arts council official also is excited about the return of Maggie Peterson and Rodney Dillard, saying it is good to have the Darling family represented again this year by two performers who played members of the mountain clan. They will be part a tribute concert to the late Doug Dillard, who played their brother on the show.
Actor Ronnie Schell is best-known for his role as Duke Slater on “Gomer Pyle: USMC,” but also appeared in two “Andy Griffith Show” episodes.
Schell will be performing a new one-man show during Mayberry Days, and will be accompanied by his filmmaker son Greg, who is scheduled to present a documentary he produced in conjunction with the 50th-anniversary of “The Andy Griffith Show.”
The arts council official also is excited about the return of Margaret Kerry, who guest-starred in two “Andy Griffith Show” episodes.
Kerry will be performing a new show featuring stories from her book “Tinkerbell Talks! Tales of a Pixie-Dusted Life,” based on Kerry’s work as a model for Walt Disney’s animated film “Peter Pan” and her times on the Griffith show.
Karen Knotts, daughter of Don Knotts (Barney Fife), also will return for two shows, one of which is new. Her involvement with Mayberry Days will include a presentation at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.
Jones said the appearance by Laura Hagen will be a special part of Mayberry Days. She is the widow of Earle Hagen, the whistler heard in the theme song for “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“It’s great that she’s coming back,” Jones said of Laura Hagen, calling her an important part of the Mayberry world.
In addition to their other engagements, the Mayberry celebrities will participate in the annual Mayberry Days Parade on Sept. 24.
Eden could return
The arts council official also explained the absence this year of actress Barbara Eden from the Mayberry Days talent lineup, after her debut appearance in 2015.
Eden is best-known for her starring role on another sitcom, “I Dream of Jeannie,” about an astronaut who finds a bottle containing a beautiful genie, but also guest-starred on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
“Last year when she came, she said it would probably be a one-time thing,” Jones said of Eden.
However, Jones said a representative for Eden whom she stays in contact with said the actress might return to Mayberry Days next year.
Eden was a big hit during her appearance at Mayberry Days in 2015.
“She went non-stop for two days,” Jones said of Eden, who was 84 at the time.
“People were standing in line for like five hours” to meet the popular actress, who stayed until the last one was accommodated, the arts council official added.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.