Last year’s Mayberry in the Midwest was one of the best events I have ever attended. I knew it would be a Herculean task to match it but thought the line up looked promising, so I was hopeful driving up to the Indianapolis area from Nashville. My high expectations were not dashed as this year’s event met and even topped last year’s superb weekend.
Arriving in New Castle, Indiana, on Thursday night, we made our way to the Raintree Inn and had supper with Mayberry friends while we watched TAGS alumni dine at nearby tables. Some of them, like Betty Lynn, Maggie Peterson and George Lindsey, who have seen us at past events, were gracious enough to call out greetings and catch up with us. It never ceases to amaze me how friendly and accessible most of these celebrities are, and every one of the TAGS cast members who were assembled in New Castle were more than nice whenever I saw them. Although I am sure some were tired and there must have been a few tense moments I missed, I never saw one without a smile and a friendly greeting.
Friday began with a press conference at the hotel, and it was our first opportunity to see the entire lineup together at one time… and an impressive cast lineup it was, too! Only Bernard Fox was missing in action, and the rest provided quite a panorama of Mayberry faces and personalities. Jean Carson did her first “Hello Doll,” James Best promised to settle once and for all whether or not he could play guitar, Rodney Dillard waxed eloquent on “Gladiator TV,” and the others shared more perspecitve from the show.
After the morning press conference, the celebrities were split up and sent to various historic sites around Henry County where people could find them for a morning autograph session.
and I were sent to Knightstown where Margaret Kerry, Betty Lynn, and Maggie Peterson were holding court along with David Browning in the famous Hoosier Gym from the movie “Hoosiers.” It was quite a sight to see the Mayberry Deputy shooting hoops in the old gym! It was also a treat to meet Margaret Kerry who still flits around a lot like her alter ego, Tinkerbell.
“Wally” was assigned the task of greeting people who might visit Trump’s Texaco located three blocks into town from the old Hoosier Gym. As the autograph session ended, we made our way back to Trumps in time for a line of four Mayberry squad cars to line up for photos of their cars with “Wally” at the old station. This was the prequel to what would happen later that night when some ten Mayberry squad cars arrived at the New Castle Arts Park bearing their celebrity passengers for the night’s event. If I thought the sight of four squad cars in front of the old Texaco station was impressive, imagine my delight when TEN squad cars rolled into the Arts Park! It was quite a show.
When David Browning announced each celebrity as they got out of the squad cars: Margaret Kerry, James Best, the Dillards, Maggie Peterson, Jean Carson, Elinor Donahue, Betty Lynn, George Lindsey, – it was worth the drive up for that alone!
The impersonators entertained, “Wally” and “Flora” handed out programs, trivia cards (and Christian Activities Mayberry!), and a delicious Bar B Q dinner was served. Suddenly a violent thunderstorm took us by surprise, but spirits were not dampened as we huddled under the shelter eating our meal while the winds blew the rain in and the venders packed up their goods. As soon as the meal was over and it was time for the Q & A with the stars, the skies cleared up and we enjoyed a lovely, cool evening while the TAGS cast shared a few stories and famous lines with us. (Can you say, “Hello doll” and “Judy, Judy, Judy”???) Photo of Deputy David Browning and Jean Carson from Indy Star
After such a wonderful day, we all retired to the hotel where Maggie Peterson and Betty Lynn whooped it up for Kareoke in the lounge while the less energetic hung out for a slightly less rowdy time telling tales and swapping stories in the restaurant.
For details of Saturday’s events, check out my review of Mayberry in the Midwest II: Saturday’s Report.
Related Stories & Links:
Mayberry in the Midwest: Saturday’s Report
Mayberry in the Midwest 2002
Mayberry in the Midwest 2002 Review
Mayberry in the Midwest 2002 Photos
Meet Mayberry Tribute Artist, “Wally”
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