Mayberry Days officially kicks off today with the annual golf tournament held at Cross Creek Country Club, but last night, supporters of the Surry Arts Council, which puts on the festival each year, had a chance to mingle with all of the celebrities and guests who came to perform this year.
Among those in attendance at the welcoming party at the home of Tanya Jones, executive director of the Surry Arts Council, was James Best, who appeared on “The Andy Griffith Show” (TAGS) but is best remembered for his role as Roscoe P. Coltrane on “The Duke’s of Hazzard,” and Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou, Barney Fife’s girlfriend on TAGS. Don Knotts’ daughter Karen Knotts, who is here for her fourth trip to Mount Airy, was also at the soiree. George Lindsey Jr. also had a good time reminiscing with his long-time friend Jackie Joseph, who played Ernest T. Bass’ girlfriend Sweet Romeena. Maggie Peterson, who played Charlene Darling, also had a great time catching up with old friends.
Lindsey, who got a kick out of seeing his father in re-runs on the TV at Jones’ home, is back in Mount Airy for his second visit. He came here last year for Mayberry Days for the first time.
“I love the south. Everybody is as wonderful as they can be. I will try to make this for the rest of my life. It’s weird with my dad’s passing. I was a little nervous to be here, but they handle me with kid gloves, but that’s the way they treat everybody. Even though it’s only my second year, it feels like a homecoming,” said Lindsey.
The tribute for his father, George Lindsey, who played Goober Pyle, will be at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Earle Theatre. There is no charge to attend.
Lynn said she was happy to see everyone again this year. She said in January she will have lived in Mount Airy for six years — and it’s been a wonderful six years.
Knotts, who was sitting next to Lynn, having dinner from Trio restaurant, said it’s good to be back to visit with everyone.
“It’s really a pleasure to see my friends. People here are such kind folks,” said Knotts.
Joseph said she met two men from Greensboro at an event in California earlier this year. They told her they had always wanted to come to Mayberry Days. So she told them that this was the year to come. She asked them if Charlotte was out of their way, and since they said it wasn’t, they picked her up at the airport.
“It’s so wonderful seeing Mayberry Days through new eyes,” said Joseph.
David Browning, an impersonator who plays the role of the Mayberry Deputy and is the emcee for most of the Mayberry Days events, has been coming to Mayberry Days for the past 22 years.While losing Andy Griffith, George Lindsey and Doug Dillard is weighing on everyone’s minds, he said, people are coming here this year to enjoy themselves and to celebrate the lives of those that were lost earlier this year.
“We are going to have fun. That’s what Mayberry Days is all about. But also with all of that fun, we want to remember those who made it possible for all of us to be here to celebrate — starting Friday with Doug Dillard’s concert. It’s a void, because we loved him so much. Douglas has been an inspiration. We will have a wonderful concert in his memory,” said Browning. “I think the festival is geared around having fun and celebrating Mayberry and that’s what we will do, but we will always keep in our hearts those who gave us so much.”
Browning said on Wednesday morning, he saw a post on Facebook from Doug Dillard’s widow that said, “There’s a void today. For the last number of years, I spent this day getting Douglas ready to go to Mayberry Days. He was always like a child going back to school for the first day. I miss him so much.”
Mayberry Days will start today and continue through the weekend. The festival will wrap up on Sunday with a tribute to Mount Airy’s native son, Andy Griffith, at the Blackmon Amphitheatre at 9:30 a.m.
Reach Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.