The Mayberry Reunion at Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville lived up to high expectations in most instances. With cast members from “The Andy Griffith Show” including Don Knotts (Barney), Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), George Lindsey (Goober), Elinor Donahue (Ellie Walker), Howard Morris (Ernest T.), Maggie Peterson Mancuso (Charlene Darling), and the Dillards present and accounted for, the weekend event could not help but hold many cherished moments.
The Reunion weekend really got running with Friday night’s Aunt Bee’s Blue Ribbon Dinner which was a disappointment to some. “For a big hotel and expensive hotel like that the food should have been better,” claimed Karen from Memphis. “You could tell Aunt Bee didn’t fix that dinner,” stated Dennis from Knoxville. “The bread was cold, the portions were puny for $83 each, some of the service was surly and the tables were pretty cramped.” Gregg from Memphis agreed adding. “If Aunt Bee DID cook that dinner, she needs to take a vacation.”
Although the dinner itself would not win any blue ribbons, it was still enjoyable. However, no one was really there for the food but for the after dinner show. “I would have eaten hard tack and raw fish just to spend the evening with the beloved stars,” said Dennis from Knoxville. “The best part of the show was seeing Barn doing 14A with the choir. That was worth it all.”
During the show, clips of local country artists were interspersed with clips from the show prior to each cast member taking the stage. Porter Waggoner confessed his love for Thelma Lou while George Jones paid homage to Otis the drunk.
Maggie Peterson did a tribute to Denver Pyle when she sang “My Buddy,” and Elinor Donahue sang “Away in a Manger” from the Christmas episode. George Lindsey regaled the crowd with jokes followed by the Dillards doing what they do best — Bluegrass. The boys were definitely all keyed up!
The highlight for everyone would have to have been Don Knotts’ two sets. Knotts first told a few jokes and then did a skit called “Nervous Weatherman” from the old Steve Allen Show. As he left the stage he promised to return.
The Dillards popped up again and Maggie Peterson joined the boys for a lively rendition of “Salty Dog.” The event was plagued with sound problems and when there was a loud pop during the Dillard’s set, Rodney quipped, “Did I go over time?”
A frail Howard Morris was wheeled to events and led to the stage where he demonstrated the holes in his jeans a la Ernest T. Bass. Betty Lynn followed singing a sweet version of “Sunny Side of the Street.”
The evening ended on a high note, literally, as “Barney” once again attempted to sing good ole’ 14A – “Welcome Sweet Springtime” with his microphone unplugged. It was a moment any true Mayberry fan would cherish.
The following day’s autograph session was so well attended that the l-o-n-g line for Don Knotts was cut off before everyone could have an item signed. Gregg from Memphis said he enjoyed his time at the autograph session and Dennis from Knoxville agreed but added, “I regret Don’s handlers really kept his line moving so fast you didn’t really get a chance to ‘meet’ or ‘greet’ him.”
I did not attend the Opry show but did walk over to the Opry to see Checkpoint Chickie where four Mayberry squad cars were proudly parked. Dennis from Knoxville said of his Opry experience, “The Grand Ole Opry show was pretty good, although they didn’t bring the Mayberry stars out until the very end of the program. They basically just introduced them one at a time, had each say a few words and then they walked off. What I would have given to get to go backstage though….”
The hotel provided a breathtakingly beautiful setting although several attendees expressed their disappointment at the rudeness and indifference of hotel staff. All in all, however, most fans including this one left more than satisfied with their Mayberry Reunion Weekend.
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