Back to Mayberry a Special Weekend

All photos ©2006
This past weekend, Mayberry returned to Tuscaloosa, AL, in a big way with Back to Mayberry. If you are like me, you might have thought it would be hard to follow Jim Nabors’ appearance in Tuscaloosa in April with another Mayberry event so soon. However, organizer Kenneth Junkins and the staff of Eagles’ Wings proved my fears were groundless as the weekend went off without a hitch and large crowds showed up at every event.

Friday morning kicked off with some of the cast and Tribute Artists making radio appearances, then later that morning the Tribute Artists were spotted on local television program “Tuscaloosa Today” doing exercises and stretches with various degrees of success.

That evening, Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) and Keith Thibodeaux (Opie’s best friend, Johnny Paul Jason as well as Little Ricky on “I Love Lucy”) joined a packed room of guests at University Church of Christ for for a dinner (where beverages were served by the ubiquitous Tribute Artists for “tips”), silent auction and live auction where over $20,000 was raised for Eagles Wings. The auctioneer gave a rapid-fire delivery but it was the non-stop antics of Mayberry Deputy David Browning as he cajoled, threatened, and squealed with delight that caused people to raise their hands (and open their wallets) over and over.

Saturday found the Tribute Artists in downtown Northport, AL, where local business were turned into favorite Mayberry businesses for the day. There were contests of all sorts: whistling, trivia, look-alikes, etc. which were both fun and for a worthy cause. Celebrity guests Betty Lynn and Keith Thibodeaux made appearances to sign autographs and pose for photos while the Mayberry Deputy took a nap at hs desk.
Then the celebrity guests and Tribute Artists were whisked to the historic Bama Theater for the Mayberry Variety Show for two and a half hours of Mayberry fun. The VW Boys were a versatile mix of music, magic and mayhem, and it was a real pleasure to see “Howard Sprague” AKA Jeff Branch join them on guitar for a song. The comedy ofDavid Browning and his trusty sidekickAllan Newsome (“Floyd”) was hilarious, and whether dancing, prancing, or just signing autographs, the other Tribute Artists added their own brand of Mayberry humor to the mix. Top it off with original cast members Betty Lynn and Keith Thibodeaux and how could you not love it?

The show moved quickly along with almost seamless segues from one scene to the next. The only part that made me scratch my head and go “hmmmm” was when some of the Mayberry characters inexplicably end up on Gilligan’s Island for a silly (and in my opinion, unnecessary) exchange with Mary Ann and Ginger. Other than that, the show truly lived up to its “Back to Mayberry” moniker.
One of the evening’s many highlights was when some of the special needs children and teens were invited up on the stage to sing “Jesus Loves Me” with Betty Lynn, Keith Thibodeaux, the VW Boys, and the Tribute Artists.
The Back to Mayberry weekend was a fund-raiser for Eagles’ Wingss, a local group that is working to build a facility that creates a “nurturing and caring Christian community for individuals with special needs.” The Eagles’ Wings kids were present at every event, and you could hadly make your way across a room or down a street without stopping for multiple hugs. These really are special kids.
Tribute artists who joined the stars for the two day celebration included David “Mayberry Deputy” Browning, Allan “Floyd” Newsome, Kenneth “Otis” Junkin, Tim “Goober” Pettigrew, Jeff “Howard” Branch, Jamie “Opie” Sullivan, Paul “Earnest T” Babb and Mike “Wally” Darden. All in all the weekend was purt’ near perfect!
Details on the total amount raised for Eagles’ Wings over the weekend was not available by press time. For more information on Eagles’ Wings call (205) 345-5484.
Other Mayberry Links:
The Mayberry Poem – A Tribute to Mayberry
Back to Christian Activities Mayberry Section
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