While Mount Airy can’t be colored black and white, the city will be moving into a time when black-and-white television was making a transition into color as the annual Mayberry Days festival kicks off Wednesday with autograph sessions.
This year, the 24th annual festival celebrating Andy Griffith the actor and “The Andy Griffith Show” will bring thousands of fans to Mount Airy as it does each year for time with friends and celebrities, sharing the small-town atmosphere Mayberry promoted and honoring those who made the show famous and helped make the Andy Griffith Museum a tribute to the show and its actors.
One of the changes in the event this year is the availability of the show’s stars for fans to visit earlier in the week than in the past. Tanya Jones, executive director of the festival’s host, the Surry Arts Council, said, “We will be trying to spread the autograph sessions out some. We will have some autographs at the museum as early as Wednesday and Thursday.”
Autograph sessions will be held at the Andy Griffith Museum Wednesday beginning at 2 p.m. Other sessions will be Thursday from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the museum; Thursday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Cross Creek Country Club as part of the Mayberry Days Dinner which requires a ticket for entrance; Friday from noon to 5 p.m. at the museum; and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
But those who just want a glance at the celebrities without having to wait in line can attend the annual Mayberry Days parade in which each of the stars will take part. The parade will begin at BB&T on North Main Street at 9 a.m. Saturday and travel south on Main to Rockford Street where it will turn right and end at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.
This year local resident Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on the show, will lead the parade, which will include appearances by both stars and tribute artists portraying characters on the show.
The Andy Griffith Museum will be the only site to purchase an official Mayberry Days T-shirt, which this year will feature photos of all the stars who attend on the back of the shirt. The theme from the front of this year’s “Mayberry Confidential” publication will be on the front, “Mount Airy where Mayberry comes to life.”
Being added this year to the festival will be free backstage tours throughout the weekend of the Andy Griffith Playhouse by Surry Arts Council Artistic Director Bobby Bodford.
Outdoor concerts on Thursday and Friday also are returning to the Blackmon Amphitheatre, which is just across the street from the playhouse. Band of Oz will perform Thursday from 8 to 10:30 p.m., and The Tams will take the stage Friday at 7:30 p.m.
After the first autograph sessions on Wednesday, the next big event of the festival will be the Mayberry Days Golf Tournament, which has been renamed in memory of the late Emmett Forrest, Griffith’s long-time friend who donated the Andy Griffith collection to the museum. The golf tournament will be held at Cross Creek Country Club at 12:30 p.m. followed by the golf awards and entertainment by Mayberry Days guests from 6 to 8 p.m.
The official kick-off of Mayberry Days is the Mayor’s Proclamation and opening at 10 a.m. Friday at the Blackmon Amphitheatre. The event features city officials and the weekend’s special guests celebrities and tribute artists. This year two new “Mayberry Stars,” similar to the stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, will honor the late Charles Dowell, who owned and operated Snappy Lunch for 61 years until his death in September 2012, and Russell Hiatt, owner of Floyd’s City Barber Shop on Main Street.
Also during the opening, George Lindsay Jr., whose father, George Lindsay Sr. played Goober Pyle on the show, will donate his father’s Wally’s Service Station suit to the museum and the beanie and shoes he wore in appearances.
Jones said this year keys to the city will be presented by Mayor Deborah Cochran to Lindsay Jr., and to Roland White, who will be attending Mayberry Days for the first time. White was a member of The Country Boys, along with long-time Mayberry Days guest LeRoy McNees, on two episodes of the show. He and his band will be performing as part of the Doug Dillard Tribute on Friday.
In addition to White and Lindsey Jr., guests attending this year’s festival will include Elizabeth MacRae, who portrayed Betty Parker on the show and Lou Ann Poovie on “Gomer Pyle USMC;” Betty Lynn, who portrayed Barney’s girlfriend Thelma Lou; Peggy McCay, who was Andy’s high school girlfriend on is Caroline Brady on “Days of Our Lives;” James Best, who was guitar player Jim Lindsey on the show and Rosco P. Coltrane on “The Dukes of Hazzard;” Maggie Peterson, who portrayed Charlene Darling; George Spence, who portrayed Frank in the episode “Guest in the House;” Morgan Brittany, who was Opie’s first date; LeRoy McNees, a member of The Country Boys; Margaret Kerry, model for the original Tinkerbell, who was Bess Muggins in “The Christmas Story” episode and Helen Scobey in “Andy Forecloses” episode; Karen Knotts, daughter of Don Knotts, who portrayed Deputy Barney Fife; tribute artist David Browning, the Mayberry deputy; and Michael Hoover, Elvis Presley impersonator.
Also, this year will feature a Mayberry Days raffle and silent auction for a chance to win a complete set of the show’s episodes in DVD box set. Raffle tickets are on sale at Mayberry Days information station for $1 each or six for $5. A drawing will be during the TAGSRWC Annual Meeting. Ticket holders do not have to be present to win. Proceeds go to the WBMUTBB silent auction, which will be held on Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in front of the Andy Griffith Playhouse.
A schedule of events for the show will appear in The Mount Airy News later this week.
Reach Wendy Byerly Wood at email@example.com or at 719-1923.