Throngs of people turn out for Autumn Leaves Festival

Mondee TilleyCivitas News Service

October 14, 2012

Mount Airy’s ordinarily busy Main Street turned into a sea of people on Friday and was filled with the sounds of bluegrass music and the smells of everything from cotton candy to collard green sandwiches as the 46th annual Autumn Leaves Festival began.

Vendor Sylvia Lawson said she’s been coming to the festival since at least 1986. She makes Pilot Mountain specific ceramic pieces, such as plates, bowls and lamps. She said they have gotten so popular, people have started collecting her pieces.

Lawson was an art teacher for 36 years and fell in love with working with clay. She has five potter’s wheels and a kiln at her Pilot Mountain home. She teaches classes there every Monday and Tuesday.

As far as the Autumn Leaves Festival goes, she said she sold lots of pieces on Friday.

“It’s been constant. It’s been a good steady day,” said Lawson.

Vendor David Spangler, who sells wooden bowls and utensils, said he’s been selling at the festival for the past four years. Since he is from Floyd, Va., he said it’s not too bad of a drive to get here.

“This is a good show for us. We are always well supported by the public,” said Spangler.

Christine Calhoun and her mother Brenda Cooke said they make coming to the Autumn Leaves Festival an annual mother-daughter outing.

“We have to come up here to see what’s going on. We mostly like people watching. That’s the best part,” said Calhoun.

Vendor Bob Lynch, who sells rocks and minerals of different varieties, said he has been selling at the festival for the past 38 years. He and his wife used to travel all over for shows, but now they mostly like to stay close to home.

Jonathan Bledsoe, director of Surry County 911 Communications, said that he thought Friday was as busy as most Saturdays of the festival. He said the staff at the 911 Communications Center were monitoring the two live-streaming cameras on Main Street for safety purposes.

James Gammons, with Fastlink Communications who installed the two live-streaming cameras, said that there were 900 people who visited his site to check out Main Street on Friday by 5:30 p.m. He mounted one camera to the Mount Airy Visitors Center and the other to the top of the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. The cameras can be viewed at www.fastlinkcommunications.com.

Bob Meinecke, a visitor information specialist with the visitors center, said there was a record crowd at the festival yesterday.

“We have beautiful weather. We’ve had a lot of people who just came to get the Mayberry experience who found out we were having a festival. They were very pleased to know that we had other things going on. We are expecting even larger crowds tomorrow,” said Meinecke.

Jessica Icenhour, director of tourism with the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, said she created a Facebook page just for the Autumn Leaves Festival about four months ago and it already has 4,696 fans. She spend most of the day Friday answering questions posted on that page. She said people also were posting their festival pictures on there.

Reach Mondee Tilley at mtilley@heartlandpublications.com or at 719-1930.