Last Mayberry Days kicked off with the groundbreaking for the Andy Griffith Museum, and today the building will open for the first time at 9 a.m.
Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, summed up the experience of getting the museum open on budget and before the Saturday deadline as “It’s big!”
The ribbon cutting for the museum will be on Saturday at 10:45 a.m. during the 20th annual Mayberry Days.
“It’s absolutely going to be a showcase. This will be a real asset to Mount Airy, and I hope that Mount Airy benefits greatly from this building,” Jones said.
Through $600,000 in funding that came from the Surry County commissioners, the N.C. Rural Center for Economic Development and the arts council, Jones hopes the community is as pleased with the museum as she is.
“I’m so thankful to everyone — to see things come together. This is a tribute to all of those who have worked so hard to make this happen,” Jones said. “I think everybody is going to be blown away.”
Emmett Forrest, who is a personal friend of Andy Griffith’s and has been collecting memorabilia from Griffith’s career for the past 25 years, stood inside the museum Tuesday as volunteers moved, lifted and hung his collection around the newly opened space.
“Andy wanted me to have this collection because he knew I would never sell it. He knew that it would be available for the public to see,” Forrest said.
Forrest’s daughter, Terri Champney, volunteered her time Tuesday to get the museum ready for visitors.
Jones and Champney showed Forrest the plaque that was made of his likeness that will permanently hang in the lobby that reads: “With Gratitude to Emmett Forrest, Keeper of the Flame.”
As visitors walk toward the museum, which is next to the Andy Griffith Playhouse, they will walk on a winding path of granite that was donated by North Carolina Granite Corporation. The museum itself was designed by Christopher Price. Jerry Coram of Coram Construction was in charge of the construction phase of the project.
When inside the lobby, visitors will be greeted by a granite floor, also donated by N.C. Granite Corp. Contractors with Coram worked through weekend to lay the floor, which couldn’t be walked on for two full days. Jones said she waited for the Surry County building inspector to give them the OK to occupy the building first thing Tuesday morning.
R. Neal Fine, ASID, and Rob Hildebrand Jr., the president of R. Neal Fine & Associates, Inc., guided Jones throughout the interior design process, giving her color and design suggestions. Fine and Hildebrand not only volunteered their services throughout the project, they worked all day Tuesday hanging pieces in the museum. Fine said he wanted visitors to be drawn through the space.
Jones said 1220 Exhibits out of Nashville, Tenn., created a concept of what the space could be with more funding. The renderings are located in the lobby of the museum. One of 1220’s designs has already been incorporated into the entrance with a ticket window. As visitors enter the lobby, they will also be greeted by one of three flat panel TVs. The one in the lobby circulates more than 100 photos of the last 19 years of Mayberry Days.
From the lobby, visitors will pass by a souvenir counter filled with licensed merchandise. The walls are filled with framed photographs from Forrest’s collection. A second TV rolls nothing but photographs of Andy Griffith throughout his career. The third TV scrolls photographs and video of Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show.”
The collection also includes donations from Betty Lynn and Francey Knotts, Don Knotts’ widow. Jones said local retired attorney Fred Folger donated some items that will be used in the “Matlock” portion of the exhibit. Surry Arts Council theater volunteers worked on set pieces that will be used in the space as the jail.
Steve Talley, owner of Talley’s Custom Frame & Gallery, volunteered his time working to get the museum ready for the first visitors Wednesday.
Jones said Zurn Industries donated all of the bathroom fixtures throughout the building.
The museum will be open through Mayberry Days from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Sunday from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Contact Mondee Tilley at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 719-1930.