Large crowds filling downtown Mount Airy Saturday were proof an agricultural festival maintains its popularity in what has become an urban world. Mayberry Farm Fest is about visiting and sharing in a time when work schedules don’t allow a lot of free time.
The amount of mud on Bryan Parker’s 1952 Ford “Red Belly” tractor was exactly the message he wanted to get across as it sat parked amid rows of shining entries.
“I’m going after the hardest working tractor award this year,” said Parker. “I wouldn’t waste it. I want people to see these machines are what built America.”
He explained recently the mechanical workhorse had accidentally become stuck in a pond as he was using it to push concrete blocks into the water to fill up the space. He said two four-wheelers couldn’t pull the tractor out but a neighbor with a Kubota tractor did. Parker said the tractor had been kept busy constantly with plowing, pushing snow and bush hogging.
“You name it we’ve done it with this tractor,” Parker said. “We’ve pulled about 500 stumps from small to large with it. It’s a working machine. I’d rather sit on this old Ford than any of the newer, bigger ones here. It’s like an old tennis shoe. This tractor just feels good to work with.” Parker’s Massey Ferguson diesel Model 135 was parked nearby. He said his son feels the same way and can feel the tractor and know when it is going to tilt or is about to break a point on its plow.
Members of the family operation known as Blue Ridge Mining Camp LLC, which seeks to give everyone a chance to get in touch with their inner prospector, said the business began when they wanted to share being a “rock hound” with others. They said with no less than five shows on various satellite channels tied into mining, it seemed the right time to stake their claim to festivals.
Blue Ridge Mining offers enriched dirt to those wanting to either use a sluice or the traditional pan to sift away common dirt in the hope of finding precious minerals. The business also offers geodes which they can open to reveal the delicate crystal interior for “the first time since God created it.” The owners of the Mount Airy firm include Mattie Everett, Marshall Armbrister, Dakota Speer and J.R. Armbrister.
Steven and Judy Dearborn of Ararat are another example of vendors whose stock and trade is sharing a passion for something. Steven Dearborn makes his living fabricating various types of trailers for festivals and corn roasters. He was regularly seen during Farm Fest opening a bucket where sweet corn in its husk had been kept in water and loading the roaster.
“This (soaking the corn) keeps it moist when cooking so it stays nice and tender,” said Dearborn. “You don’t have to do it, but we go the extra mile though.” The couple also features freshly squeezed lemonade. Judy Dearborn said she had always loved roasted corn and ordered extra ears whenever the two dined out so it seemed a natural thing for them to do.
They said their brief forays into festivals also allows them to test their corn roasters out and has led to them making a lot of improvements in designs based on real world experience, which helps the business. They characterized themselves as “people people” and said they also enjoy talking with festival participants.
Michele Hullinger and her family traveled from Pennsylvania to Mount Airy. She said her husband’s (Charles Kline) sister, Laura Kline, had invited them to her daughter, Kayla Westmoreland’s wedding.
“We came here for breakfast and found this,” said Hullinger, who said they live in a rural area of Pennsylvania. The two said they enjoyed breakfast at Aunt Bea’s and had lunch at Snappy Lunch before settling in to see what Farm Fest had to offer.
The Mount Airy Downtown Business Association holds the yearly celebration of farming and agricultural traditions. It featured live traditional music and dancing, exhibits of classic farm vehicles and equipment, children’s activities, demonstrations of traditional farming activities, arts and crafts vendors, agricultural and horticultural displays.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.