There’s a lot to take in at Mayberry Days; the five-day schedule – and Mount Airy itself – is packed with opportunities to experience “The Andy Griffith Show” way of life.
As the annual parade flowed past, Cathy Jenman, on a road trip from Los Angeles, took advantage of benches along Main Street on Saturday and made the best of her adventure in a slightly different way.
“I just sat and I watched and I observed and I pretended, I guess, that I was in Mayberry,” she said. “I just totally have been enthralled.”
Jenman, who works in the studios, had stopped at her daughter’s house in Savannah, Georgia, when she heard about “The Andy Griffith Show” themed event, and took off by herself for the 6-hour drive.
“And here I am,” she said, adding that she made a point of driving through Mount Airy at about 5 a.m.
“It was so quiet and wonderful, it was exactly what I expected,” Jenman said, which was “the hospitality and everything in the spirit of slowing down.”
Mayberry loves a parade
By 9 a.m. Main Street was overflowing.
Once the parade got started, quiet was replaced by a chorus of vintage squad car sirens, the music of marching bands and the whistling theme song played through car stereos.
Rob and Emily Chamblin, of Roanoke, Virginia, sat in the bed of their pickup truck to watch the parade, happy that the prohibition of parking cars along Main Street during the parade had been lifted this year.
The couple have been coming to Mayberry Days for about 25 years, Rob Chamblin said, and have cats named Andy, Taylor, Barney and Floyd.
He wore an embroidered “Mayberry” themed shirt that turned out to be a one-of-a-kind kind of thing.
“I’ve been offered good money for this shirt,” he said, recalling his first Mayberry Days. “We were like kids.”
The pair collect memorabilia and said you never know what random item might turn into something special.
Emily Chamblin noted that some of the parade participants toss souvenirs to the crowd and they were hoping to catch something good in 2016.
At the very least, “We always get some candy,” she said.
Former cast member Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou, led the parade driven in a classic car.
Fans yelled out “Happy Birthday” to the beloved actress, who recently celebrated her 90th.
She was followed by a stream of special guests; Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson and family; scores of tribute actors; marching bands from Mount Airy High School and North Surry High School.
Teresa and Tommy Graham had come to Mount Airy with their daughter, Makayla Graham, on Saturday, not realizing it was Mayberry Days.
They were hooked.
“It was the best parade I’ve ever seen,” said Teresa Graham, “because they had all the different characters.”
“And they interact with you,” Makayla Graham finished.
“Just seeing the characters brought back a lot of memories,” Tommy Graham said. “We’ll be back.”
Special guest Gregory Schell declined to ride in the parade with his dad, Ronnie Schell, preferring to enjoy the parade from the street.
“I think the parade is a slice of Americana that hearkens back to the very beginning of this country,” said Gregory Schell, whose documentary about Mayberry Days screened at The Earle Theatre on Friday.
“It’s just another aspect of this time period that someone can experience.”
A superlative event
As she maneuvered through the throngs of people lined up to get into the museum, attending to some festival related matter, Tanya Jones, Surry Arts Council executive director, had good things to say about the 2016 Mayberry Days.
“I would say that the (sunny, clear, hot) weather is wonderful,” she said, “the crowds are incredible. The lines are unbelievable.”
So many participated in the parade it took an hour and a half to line them up, she said, with some cars finishing the route before others at the end of the line had begun.
“The police told us it was the biggest parade ever in Mount Airy,” she said. And the overnight BBQ competition: “The judges said it was the best BBQ they had ever tasted.”
Randy Collins, president and CEO of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, stood in the visitors center helping to greet guests that streamed in and out of the Main Street building.
While it’s too early to total the exact number of folks attending the event, “hotels are reported to be full,” he said. “Yesterday, every restaurant at noon had lines outside the door. We’re very excited. It should be a great Mayberry Days,” he continued. “The weather certainly makes a difference.”
He held up a sheet of paper listing every state with hashmarks representing visitors from those states.
Collins mentioned that he had only lived in Mount Airy for a couple of years. H seemed impressed with the Mayberry Days phenomenon.
“I met a couple from Iowa, a husband and wife, who come every year. It’s their vacation. They live 400, 500 miles away,” he said. “It’s a big deal. You obviously have some people that love Andy Griffith and Mayberry and we’re glad to have them.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.