Is Mount Airy really Mayberry? Explore Mount Airy, the hometown of actor Andy Griffith, for the Mayberry parallels, such as the Snappy Lunch, Floyd’s City Barber Shop, the Old City Jail, the Andy Griffith Playhouse, Wally’s Service Station, Andy’s Homeplace, and the famous Andy Griffith Museum, which is housed at the Mount Airy Visitors Center. The owner of the Mayberry Motor Inn, Alma Venable has a collection of Frances Bouvier’s – better known as Aunt Bee — personal belongings, which can be seen by appointment. Mount Airy hosts an annual event called Mayberry Days, which is a celebration of The Andy Griffith Show’s anniversary. Mayberry Days is scheduled for the last weekend in September every year.
The Merry-Go-Round, the country’s third longest running live Bluegrass radio show, is held every Saturday morning in the Downtown Cinema Theatre in Mount Airy from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. The show’s founder WPAQ 740 AM and the Surry Arts Council have teamed up to make this event free and open to the public. Folks can show up early for the jam session at 9 a.m. They are welcome to bring their instruments, dance partner and join in. Mount Airy has a wealth of Old-Time and Bluegrass entertainment. A jam session is also held every Thursday night at 7 p.m. in the Andy Griffith Playhouse. The Surry Arts Council also hosts a monthly concert of local musicians called the Blue Ridge Jamboree. Big name bands are also featured at the Downtown Cinema Theatre each month.
What’s the difference between Old-Time Music and Bluegrass Music? The Surry Arts Council schedules music workshops during the annual Mount Airy Bluegrass & Old Time Fiddlers Convention.
What is a sonker? Talk to Cama Merritt, president of the Surry County Historical Society, about this deep-dish fruit pie. She can teach you the recipe and tell you where you can taste test sonkers – at the annual Sonker Festival held at the historic Edwards-Franklin House on the first Saturday of October.
Relive Civil War History at the birth site of Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart in Ararat, Va., which is about 6 miles north of Mount Airy. See a depiction of a day in the life of a Civil War soldier from living in the campground to fighting in the field. Meet the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee impersonator.
The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History educates visitors about the area referred to as “The Hollows,” which is quite a fitting name in that the entire Mount Airy region rests in a saucer-like depression circled by mountains. The panoramic view from the museum’s observation tower captures the beauty of this mountainous circle. A tour of the museum is a step back in time.
Pilot Mountain or “Mount Pilot” is nearby Mount Airy. Surry County’s most prominent geographical feature is without question the famed Pilot Mountain. The Indians called it “Jomeokee,” meaning “Great Guide” or “Pilot.” Early white settlers called it Mount Ararat for the mountain where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Flood. Andy Griffith referred to it as “Mount Pilot” in numerous episodes of The Andy Griffith Show. Today, Pilot Mountain is a landmark for thousands of visitors to the state park, which bears its name. The park offers weekly educational programs that are free and open to the public.
One of the 500 remaining drive-in theaters in the United States finds its home in Mount Airy, N.C. It is one of 11 drive-ins in North Carolina. Since 1958, the number of drive-ins has dropped 87 percent from 4,063, according to the National Association of Theater Owners, but Mount Airy’s drive-in remains popular. Don L. Davis opened the Bright Leaf Drive-In in 1955, and since its opening, people from the surrounding areas have enjoyed the outdoor theater. The Bright Leaf Drive-In is open year round.
Near the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains lies a new vineyard and winery of distinction. Shelton Vineyards opened in 1999. The vision of two brothers, Charlie and Ed Shelton, this new winery is creating superb wine. Shelton Vineyards is open to the public seven days a week and makes a wonderful destination for an enjoyable day. Learn the winemaking process, taste the delicious varieties, visit the gift shop and picnic on beautifully landscaped grounds. Cheese from a factory on site can compliment your wine selection.
Mount Airy or “The Granite City” is home to the largest open-face granite quarry in the world. Many of Mount Airy’s homes, churches and businesses are made from Mount Airy granite. Shaped like an enormous oyster shell, the quarry covers approximately 90 acres, which is currently under operation. The deposit is about 1 mile long and 1/3 mile wide. Geological mapping shows the total mass to be about 7 miles by 4 miles and 6,000 to 8,000 feet deep. Since 1889, the quarry has been in full operation, and the surface has only just been scratched according to depth tests. Geologists say the deposit can be quarried for approximately 500 more years without exhausting the supply.
Poised on a gorgeous mountainside just two miles below the Blue Ridge Parkway in Carroll County, Va., Levering Orchard is a fruit lovers’ paradise, which is also the largest cherry orchard in the South. Just a 15-minute drive north of Mount Airy, N.C., this family-run orchard is known throughout the region for its 44 varieties of mouth-watering sweet and tart cherries found on 33 acres of orchard. Families plan day trips, weekend outings, and even vacations around the opportunity to pick their own cherries.
Most people have heard of the Siamese Twins, but do not realize that the most famous of Siamese Twins made their home in Surry County and are buried in the White Plains Baptist Church Cemetery, which is nearby Mount Airy. The Twins were born in a fishing village in Siam, and it was their nationality that became the name for the birth defect in which two people are physically joined together. Other than being connected by a piece of flesh, the twins were completely normal and lived a relatively normal childhood.
Nestled among the gently rolling hills of Surry County in the northwestern Piedmont of North Carolina stands Horne Creek Living Historical Farm. Costumed guides interpret everyday life as it was during the early Twentieth Century, when Thomas and Charlotte Hauser raised their 12 children at the Pinnacle community farm. The days follow one another much as they did on any middle-class North Carolina farm during the early 1900s. You can almost see the Hauser family caught up in their annual cycle of everyday chores, farm labor, and festive celebrations.
The Rockford Preservation Society Inc. was organized in 1972 to stabilize and preserve the town of Rockford. The town of Rockford was established by a legislative act in 1789 and served as the county seat of Surry County until 1853. The town of Rockford was placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1976; the Rockford Preservation Society was incorporated the same year. Today, Rockford represents a part of Surry County’s unique history and has become quite a tourist attraction because of the church’s fresco, low water bridge and general store.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is ranked “America’s most scenic drive” by leading travel writers. The Parkway follows the mountain crests from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smokey Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. The Blue Ridge Parkway can easily be accessed from the Fancy Gap Virginia Exit, which is about 15 miles from Mount Airy.
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