A television crew that “painted the town” this week in Mount Airy didn’t leave any spills or splatters behind, but took away fond memories — and camera footage — from various local attractions for a show this fall.
Eric Dowdle, a folk artist from Utah, visited the city Monday to film segments for his travel series that appears on public television, “Painting the Town with Eric Dowdle.” Its format involves him traversing North America to meet the people, sample food, learn about the culture and tour attractions in various communities in an effort to determine what makes each place special.
In Mount Airy’s case, this included stopovers at the Wally’s Service Station and Mayberry Squad Car Tours location, featuring a ride in a replica patrol car; Floyd’s Barber Shop; The Loaded Goat restaurant, where the Dowdle team met Thelma Lou actress Betty Lynn; and the Earle Theatre.
“They actually visited Mount Airy a couple of years ago,” said Jenny Smith of Mount Airy Visitors Center, who accompanied the TV group Monday. “They just visited (then), they did not do any filming.”
While that earlier encounter didn’t result in a TV broadcast, this week’s swing through Mount Airy will be featured in an Eric Dowdle episode to be aired internationally in October on Create TV, part of the Public Broadcasting System family.
Create TV is a channel specializing in how-to, do-it-yourself and other lifestyle-oriented instructional programming in the areas of cooking, arts and crafts, gardening, home improvement and travel.
The material gathered during Monday’s visit to Mount Airy will be included in a program mostly highlighting Winston-Salem, according to Smith. “The focus on Winston-Salem was Old Salem,” she said, with Dowdle’s crew also filming at locations there in recent days, which will be supplemented by footage from the side trip to Mount Airy.
Smith said the Piedmont Triad Film Commission was instrumental in helping to set up the shooting schedule for “Painting the Town with Eric Dowdle” in Winston-Salem and Mount Airy. Local tourism official Jessica Roberts serves on the commission’s board.
Monday’s production itinerary here began at Mayberry Squad Car Tours’ headquarters on South Main Street, where the owner of that business, Mike Cockerham, personally gave the visitors a ride around town in one of his trademark Ford Galaxies.
Then it was on to Floyd’s Barber Shop, where the TV show representatives learned about the history of the longtime business where Andy Griffith got his hair cut years ago and which resembles the shop on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Later, there was lunch at The Loaded Goat and the meeting with Betty Lynn. “Eric was thrilled to do that,” Smith said of his encounter with Lynn, who resides in Mount Airy after moving from California about 10 years ago and plays a big role in local tourism efforts.
Monday’s visit was capped off with the stopover at the Earle Theatre, with local old-time banjo picker Marsha Todd — first-place winner at the Mount Airy fiddlers convention in June — performing for the camera.
As is name implies, the title of Dowdle’s TV show reflects the classical meaning of “painting a town” by indulging in all its available entertainment — but there is actually a painting involved.
After visiting places for his series, Dowdle creates a painting that illustrates the people and attractions that give each location its unique flavor.
Those images eventually become detailed and colorful puzzles that are sold around the world, reflecting Dowdle’s dual talents as a folk artist and puzzle creator.
“He’ll leave here and then he’ll do his painting,” Smith said of Dowdle’s procedure.
The artist plans to return to Mount Airy to unveil that creation, she added.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.