In a Mayberry Daze!

by Kathryn E. Darden for
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Since its beginnings in 1990, the Surry Arts Council’s annual has become one of the most
anticipated events in the region. The 13 annual Mayberry Days, celebrating the 42nd Anniversary of “The Andy Griffith Show,” took place in Mt. Airy, NC September 26-28. The
special guests at this year’s event included Maggie Peterson Mancuso/ “Charlene Darling,” Howard
Morris/”Ernest T,” Betty Lynn/”Thelma Lou,” Doug Dillard of the Darling Boys, and as
well as George Spence, and James Best who both made guest appearances on “The Andy Griffith Show” (and you may also remember Best as Rosco P. Coltrane on “Dukes of Hazard”).

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Another noteworthy TAGS alumnus, Harvey Bullock, was one of the show’s best loved writers. Bullock served as the special
guest for Neal Brower’s Mayberry lecture on Saturday afternoon and appeared up at all the VIP functions over the weekend.
Visitors from across the nation flocked to the small town on the Virginia border to sample a
taste of “Mayberry” in Andy Griffith’s birthplace and to catch a glimpse of the celebrities. This year my brother and I arrived in
Mt. Airy on Thursday night just in time to catch a bite at the Bluebird Diner. We had enjoyed the small diner last year and it is about the only place open at night in downtown Mt. Airy. Since we were there for the Mayberry experience, we did not want start our adventures on the highway eating fast food!

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Friday was rainy but found us up bright and early anyway.
Mike was eager to take his place greeting guests at Wally’s Service, an antique gas
station that now serves as a Mt. Airy tourist attraction. Located just a few blocks from downtown, Wally’s was a short walk from where the main action took place, but well worth the walk. With its red tile roof, antique pumps, rocking chairs and souvenirs, Wally’s also played host to various old cars and squad cars which parked in front and made fabulous photo ops, especially with “Wally” in his uniform!

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As I left Wally’s for a quick tour of the town, everybody’s favorite Barney Fife impersonator David Browning was
already showing up EVERYWHERE – how one man can be in so many places at one time
is a mystery to me! When I arrived at the Andy Griffith Playhouse, he was there greeting
the crowd, and by the time I got downtown, he was there! In fact, just about everywhere I went, the feisty Mayberry Deputy was there ahead of me taking names and handing out tickets… or were they autographs?
Downtown Mt. Airy was full of quaint spots any visitor would enjoy. For food you couldn’t beat the Snappy Lunch or the Bluebird Diner, and Floyd’s City Barbershop, the Mayberry 5
and Dime, Pages Books, the Mayberry Trading Post, Aladdin’s and more businesses than I can list offered a taste of Mayberry and small town Americana.

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Just strolling down Main Street was fun, but when I walked into the Main Street Emporium I fortuitously stumbled into an autograph signing party after the
href=”″>Mayor’s Proclamation! There were ladies dressed up in 40’s fashions serving punch and cookies, as well as some of the Andy Griffith Show stars like Howard Morris and many impersonators! Allan Newsome/Floyd, as well as a Goober and a Howard Sprague, were on hand with, of course, David Browning playing Barney. Later I saw Phil Fox who does a mean Ernest T. impersonation at the City Jail and a local lady (Mrs. Veneble) showed up a couple of places as Aunt Bee. Other impersonators included Ken Junkin as Otis, Michael Hoover as
Elvis, and several boys who played Opie. There was even a fellow dressed up as “Clarence Earp” in the parade.

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As we continued our sightseeing we discovered one place not to be missed in Mt. Airy was Andy Griffith’s childhood home which was the family home from the 30’s through the 1960’s. Not too far from Andy’s home stood the Moravian Church where Andy got his first music lessons and where he was encouraged to pursue his college studies in ministry. The Mayberry Motor Lodge offered guests and visitors a fine collection of memorabilia and an Aunt Bee room fixed up like Aunt Bee was a resident. And how could we leave Wally’s Service off our list of sites not to be missed in Mt. Airy?

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Saturday dawned bright and sunny as Mayberry Mike (AKA Wally) headed downtown at 8AM to take his place in the parade with Elvis and the rest. The Mayberry Days parade was wonderful! All the impersonators and the real actors were a part of the parade as well as lots of old cars, a marching band playing the “Fishing Hole” theme of “The Andy Griffith Show,” a girls marching group doing some choreography with fishing poles, and many squad cars. David Browning was
at the beginning, middle and end of the parade as well as in a couple of the cars. Don’t ask me how he did it. The word “cloning” comes to mind.

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The parade ended where all roads seem to lead at Mayberry Days, at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. I strolled by to watch the crowds that covered the grounds at the autograph signing (and I did snag a couple of autographs from George Spence, pictured here, and Harvey Bullock)
before heading to the safety of my rocking chair at Wally’s.
Besides our annual pilgrimages to the Bluebird Diner and to Snappy Lunch, this year Mike and I tried a couple of restaurants off the beaten track. Friday night had found us
at Goobur’s, a wild, psychedelic, multi-colored, tie-dye kind of place with great food! We
loved it (and, yes, they spell it with a “u.”). Saturday for lunch we drove into an old part of Mt. Airy not on the tourist map
and tried a local restaurant called the Derby. I would recommend it to anyone who wants a
delicious Meat and Three/Blueplate Special.

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Another restaurant, the Sagebrush Steak House, had a blurb in the “Mayberry Confidential” that said to come by between 10 and midnight Saturday night for some Mayberry fun, and fun it was! Michael Hoover showed up to do some Elvis songs and Harvey Bullock, James Best and Betty Lynn were there for greetings and photo ops. Mike and I were certainly glad we checked it out and we added it to our list of fun places to eat in Mt. Airy!

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Sunday we went downtown one more time to see Mt Airy when it was still and quiet, then we went to the Moravian Church that had such a strong influence on Andy Griffith. After
that we went to the visitors center and saw the huge collection of Andy Griffith memorabilia housed there.
It was hard to leave Mt. Airy. Many people have commented on the fact that Mayberry Days is like a family reunion to fans of “The Andy Griffith Show.” This is becoming true for us and leaving the charm of Mt. Airy is starting to feel a little bit like leaving home.
Photos © 2003 by
Related Stories & Links:

href=”″>2002 Mayor’s Proclamation
Andy Griffith Parkway Dedication
Mayberry Poem – “A Tribute to Mayberry”
Music & Mayberry
Andy Griffith Tells His Story
Mayberry Calendar
Past Mayberry Articles

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