Downtown to host Farm Fest

By Tom Joyce -

Youngsters enjoy slices of watermelon at a past Farm Fest celebration in Mount Airy.

Promoted as a joyous celebration of agriculture, fun, food and rural life, Mayberry Farm Fest will make its annual return to downtown Mount Airy Saturday, after kicking off with a popular tractor parade Friday night.

This area has a rich farming tradition that organizers of the event seek to reflect in a variety of ways.

That includes exhibits of classic farm vehicles and equipment; agricultural and horticultural displays; children’s activities such as pony rides and a mechanical bull; blacksmithing demonstrations; arts, crafts and antique vendors; live old-time music by The Whitetop Mountain Band; dancing; unique food offerings; and more — even a watermelon seed-spitting contest.

Mayberry Farm Fest will be held Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. along North Main Street, which will be closed to vehicular traffic from Oak to Pine streets to accommodate the event sponsored by the Downtown Business Association.

Although Farm Fest offers activities for people of all ages, nostalgia is a big drawing card for attendees who might have grown up on farms.

“And this just reminds them of it,” event coordinator Gail Hiatt said of how Farm Fest offers the opportunity to revisit or experience for the first time the flavor of old-timey ways and simpler times. “And people really like to come to it because it’s a family event.”

Hiatt said Farm Fest was first held in downtown Mount Airy around 2003 and has been a steady presence since.

Friday night parade

While the festival itself will take place Saturday, activities unofficially get under way Friday night with an annual tractor parade through the downtown district. It begins at 6 p.m.

“Last year, we probably had close to 50,” Hiatt said of tractors in the procession for Farm Fest 2016.

After it rolls through, a kids ride-on parade is planned which offers them the opportunity to emulate their adult counterparts using a variety of conveyances.

These might include battery-operated toy tractors, pedal tractors, four-wheelers — pretty much everything.

“We just let them ride it,” Hiatt said of whatever is chosen by the kids, “as long as an adult will walk with them.”

Live music

Mayberry Farm Fest activities will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and conclude at 6 p.m. with the Vintage Tractor Award Ceremony. Trophies will be awarded in categories of “Hardest-Worked,” “Best Restoration,” “Most Original,” “Oldest” and “People’s Choice” for farm and lawn tractors.

Another highlight Saturday will be traditional music by The Whitetop Mountain Band of Grayson County, Virginia, at 4 p.m. It is one of the most popular dance bands of the Appalachian Mountains, which has built a huge following among square dances throughout Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Clogging and square-dancing demonstrations will also be part of Saturday’s event, with presentations planned by the Mayberry Squares and Rhythmic Expression Cloggers.

A stage will be set up in front of Mayberry Antique Mall, roughly the mid-point of the festival grounds. “To have the area for dancing and clogging, it has to be pretty much level, and that’s the best (location) on the street,” Hiatt explained.

“We have a lot of things for kids to do,” she said, mentioning a petting zoo, pony rides, the mechanical bull and facepainting.

Cake walks will be held every hour between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

The watermelon seed-spitting contest begins at 3 p.m.

Hiatt said Farm Fest also will feature a large array of craft vendors, including some new ones. “And we have a couple of new food vendors — it seems like there’s a big interest this year.”

In addition to the Downtown Business Association, Mayberry Farm Fest is made possible by other sponsors including Scenic Ford, American Satellite Concepts, Mount Airy Equipment, Mount Airy Saw and Mower, Southern States, Rogers Realty, Bath Fitter, Mayberry Country and Carolina Farm Credit.

“We have more sponsors this year than we’ve ever had,” Hiatt said.

This event also has received support from the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

Youngsters enjoy slices of watermelon at a past Farm Fest celebration in Mount Airy. enjoy slices of watermelon at a past Farm Fest celebration in Mount Airy.

By Tom Joyce

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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