Mayberry’s taking over the world

By Stephen Harris Back In The Hometown

March 17, 2014

Because a small town in Indiana has a café named Mayberry that features country cooking and TV memorabilia, the folks there have gone and named their new downtown street festival Mayberry in the Midwest. They’re trying to draw on popularity of the fictional TV town we all know and love.

Well, more power to Danville, Ind., about an hour’s drive due west of Indianapolis. I hope the Hoosiers’ idea flies. Their debut Mayberry festival will be on May 17-18.

For years, following the popular run of “The Andy Griffith Show” on CBS-TV from 1960-68, I found comments by some from other parts of the country amusing. Quite a few times I heard folks say all they had known about North Carolina prior coming here was what they saw on the “Griffith” show, set in Mayberry.

You don’t hear that any more, as the show slowly fades from TV consciousness and a more updated view of North Carolina has gotten spread around thanks to TV sports, our banks and other things.

Griffith is the Tri-Counties’ most famous native son (sorry, Junior Johnson). Most of you know his story by now. Son of a factory worker in Mount Airy, our neighbor to the north, Griffith had a penchant for performing that he honed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He next landed the lead role in the outdoor drama in Manteo, then moved to Broadway. Griffith hit it big in 1953 with a hit comedy record, movie roles followed, and finally TV producers came calling. He died in 2012.

I’m sure most of you have made the drive up I-77 or up Poplar Springs Road, the old route, to Mount Airy and have taken in the Mayberry sights there: the Griffith museum, Mayberry Jail replica, Mayberry squad car tour, Mayberry-themed shops downtown like Opie’s Candy Store and Barney’s, etc.

Mount Airy’s alter ego of Mayberry began taking shape as the popular Mayberry Days fall downtown street festival there started taking off in the 1990s.

But what is Danville’s vision of Mayberry? I wanted to know what the Indianans think we do, or used to do, in Mayberry, er, Mount Airy, North Carolina and the South.

I learned that these are some of the things Hoosiers will do for Mayberry in the Midwest:

Whistling contest. Since the TV show’s opening and closing theme is performed with whistling, they must think we’re whistling fools down here.

Opie’s Fish Toss. Actually, Opie’s Deer Trophies would be a more appropriate contest. The truth is, Indiana, we’d rather deer hunt than fish.

Barney’s Quick Draw. You can’t quick draw a hunting rifle (see above), but if the Indianans don’t mind shotguns our hunters could put on quite a turkey shoot.

Aunt Bee’s Pie Eating Contest. Actually, we’re not much into burying our faces into pies. You waste too much that way. But if you want to see some mighty fine pie-eating, come to one of our church dinners, wait for the ladies to set out the coconut cream meringue and watch it disappear.

Goober & Gomer’s Pit Stop. One word: NASCAR (well, an acronym).

Miss Mayberry pageant. I’d put our Southern belles up against theirs anytime.

Citizen’s Arrest. The festival website said contestants will try to put the most audience members in jail. I don’t know about that, but I put my wife in the replica Mayberry jail in Mount Airy one time and snapped a quick photo, and that sure was a winner.

Floyd’s Barber Shop Shave. A shaving contest. It doesn’t mention straight razors. Nor does it mention skilled barbers only doing the shaving. I think I’d skip that one.

Actually, it looks like that they’re goin’ to have some mighty find doin’s, as Sheriff Andy might say, up in Indiana. I see they’ve booked Virginia actor David Browning, The Mayberry Deputy and star of the early Mayberry Days.

After the Hoosiers play at being Mayberry for a weekend, I invite the whole kit and caboodle to come on down and see the real Mayberry. Come and sit for a spell.

Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.