Andy Griffith fans seeking to honor his memory through an organized public event in his hometown will have to wait until September, according to city and Surry Arts Council officials.
Instead of a Mount Airy memorial service or similar event being held in close proximity to the actor’s death, which occurred last week, a tribute to Griffith is planned for Mayberry Days. This year the annual celebration of characters and events of “The Andy Griffith Show” is slated for Sept. 27-30 — more than two months away.
Mayor Deborah Cochran had said last week that some type of recognition event, possibly sponsored by city government, would be explored. The intent is two-fold: providing proper recognition to an individual who has brought fame and economic growth to Mount Airy, while also allowing his numerous fans to achieve a degree of closure.
Griffith was buried near his home in Manteo in a small private service held within hours of his July 3 death there from a heart attack. For fans in general, paying their respects has been limited to such gestures as visiting key sites in Mount Airy including the Opie and Andy statue, which became a mini-shrine to Griffith in the days after his death.
In discussing the plans for a possible public observance, Cochran had said last week that they would be coordinated through local residents including Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, Mayberry Days’ sponsor.
This led to a decision earlier this week that the Griffith tribute would be delayed until the late-September celebration.
“I have just gotten off the phone with Mayor Cochran and we are all on the same page,” Jones announced regarding the observance, for which details will be announced later.
Both Jones and Cochran acknowledged receiving numerous contacts from Griffith fans wanting to know about such an event.
“We have all had lots of inquiries about a tribute to Andy Griffith,” the Arts Council director reported, while the mayor said Wednesday she had received a “tremendous amount of emails” on the subject.
Cochran added that the September observance might be better from the public’s standpoint. “We are confident that we will have a large number of fans from all over the United States, some from other countries, and we want to give them enough time to make plans to be here.”
The mayor indicated that many people might make a special point to attend Mayberry Days this year due to the recent death of Griffith. “I think it will be the biggest Mayberry Days ever,” Cochran said of the annual event first held in 1990.
In addition to the salute to Griffith, the upcoming Mayberry Days will include two tribute concerts to Doug Dillard on Sept. 28. Dillard, known for his role as a member of the Darling family on “The Andy Griffith Show,” had performed here during each of the previous 22 years of Mayberry Days until his death on May 16.
Cochran also said Wednesday that while last week’s sudden burial of Griffith might have seemed unusual, it is difficult to question someone’s personal wishes in such cases.
“Each person is the captain of his or her own ship and I think we all have different ideas of what we would like to see happen in our life — from the beginning to the end,” the mayor said.
“It’s each person’s decision.”
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.