This year’s festival celebrates the 50th anniversary of the iconic television show, which debuted in 1960. Featured guests include several actors from the show, along with relatives of cast members. Together with tens of thousands of fans, they’ll create four days of memories in the town that served as Griffith’s inspiration for the show that still continues to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors to Mount Airy each year.
“This will be my 21st appearance at Mayberry Days,” said musician Doug Dillard, who played one of the Darling boys on the show. “I’ve made a lot of friends, and it’s like I’m back in Mayberry when I go. I enjoy it more than any gig I’ve had, except for ‘The Andy Griffith Show.’”
The annual festival began modestly in 1990, but has evolved into a major event for Mount Airy and the surrounding region.
“Mayberry Days provides fans a chance to reminisce about the show and what it represents,” said Jessica Icenhour, tourism and marketing director for the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce. “We put out the welcome mat and invite everyone to come experience the essence of America’s hometown.”
Activities range from a celebrity dinner to a festive parade to a lecture by a college professor who teaches a course on the show. Karen Knotts, daughter of the late Don Knotts (Barney Fife), gives a performance at the Downtown Cinema, and the Doug Dillard Band performs two concerts at the Andy Griffith Playhouse.
Many of the actors, including Elinor Donahue (Ellie Walker) and local resident Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), will hold autograph sessions, while Colonel Tim’s Talent Time draws sellout crowds at the playhouse.
Other activities include: a checkers tournament, golf tournament, trivia contests, pie-eating contest, music by the Band of Oz and the Rafe Hollister Band and screenings of episodes.
A special donation by actor George Lindsay (Goober) will be presented at the Mayor’s Proclamation at 10 a.m. on Friday, and the N.C. State Championship Barbecue Cookoff will be contested.
Meanwhile, the Surry Arts Council will unveil an exhibit titled “Mayberry-Mount Airy.”
“It’s a photo exhibit in the lower level of the Griffith Playhouse,” said Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council and Mayberry Days. “Andy was very involved in the writing of the show and made numerous references to people, places and things in Mount Airy. We’ve photographed those so that fans can appreciate the hometown influences.”
The new Andy Griffith Museum, open on a limited basis during last year’s festival, will be open full-time this year. It houses the world’s largest collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia, collected during a quarter century by Griffith’s long-time friend, Emmett Forrest.
Although it’s been 50 years since Sheriff Andy Taylor brought his homespun wisdom and humor into living rooms across America, reruns of the show remain popular. In fact, the show has never been off the air since it first aired Oct. 3, 1960, on CBS.
“We knew it was a wonderful show and loved all over the country and always at the top of the ratings, but I don’t think any of us dreamed it would live on like it has,” said Lynn, who moved to Mount Airy in 2007. “I hope everybody will come to see us and enjoy the festival as much as we do.”
“I think it is miraculous,” added Dillard. “It was one of the better TV sitcoms ever made. We were like a family. Aunt Bee used to make cookies and candy for us at her home and bring them down to the set. It was special. I am so proud to be a part of it.”
For information on Mayberry Days, call 786-7998 or go to www.mayberrydays.org. For lodging availability, go to www.mayberryhotels.com.
Contact Mondee Tilley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1930.