With ice cream to the left of them, hot dogs to the right of them, museum members seemed happy to be stuck in the middle on Thursday night at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History’s annual members night hot dog and ice cream social.
museum executive director Matt Edwards jokes that the event has been going on since the beginning of time. Though no one is exactly sure when the ice cream social began, Edwards says it predates him and he’s been at the museum since 2009.
“It’s a perennial favorite for our members,” says Edwards. It’s great to celebrate summer with All-American hot dogs and ice cream sundaes. Along with free admission to the museum and discounts on programs, an invitation to the summer social is one of the perks of museum membership.
Edwards says that many people assume the museum is city-run, but that is not the case. The museum receives $10,000 from Mount Airy each year, which is about 2 percent of its budget, according to Edwards.
Organized as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, the museum gets the rest of its operating budget from other sources. “Membership is a big part of that,” says Edwards. “We have just shy of 400 members. The number waxes and wanes a bit, from about 375 to 410. Our members tend to be older, so their numbers are diminished not by our doing, but by attrition.”
Edwards says 400 members is pretty good for a community of this size, but he’s always looking for more.
“If everybody who ever said ‘I love that museum’ would make a contribution, we’d be head and shoulders above where we are at.”
The museum offers a tiered membership plan with memberships going from $25 up, or as Edwards likes to say, “We’ve got memberships from $5,000, down.” He doesn’t want anyone to feel limited.
The most popular level is the family membership at $55 for a family and a close second is the “Friend’s Circle” membership at $100 a year. “I think a lot of folks default to that because it’s easy to write the check,” says Edwards.
Edwards says another misconception about the museum is that it is a museum of Mount Airy due to the first part of its name, but he says the second part of the name is important too. It is a regional museum serving not only Surry County but also the six contiguous counties adjoining Surry, including the ones in Virginia.
Edwards admits they don’t do a lot with Wilkes because they have their own museum and Forsyth has several, but he feels the museum does a good job providing service to the surrounding rural counties.
The summer ice cream social historically averages attendance of about 150 people. Edwards didn’t think they’d have that many on Thursday as there was competition from four or five other events on that evening. He estimated early on in the evening they’d only have about 100 people. At the end of the evening, 70 people had come out to enjoy hot dogs, ice cream and a bit of socializing.
Edwards was sanguine about the attendance and the competition. “We’ve planned this date since last November. What are you going to do?”
He then answers his own question with a shrug. “You make the hot dogs and you have the event.”
Membership information for the Mount Airy museum of Regional History is available on the museum’s website (www.northcarolinamuseum.org) and at the reception desk of the museum, 301 N. Main St., Mount Airy, NC 27030. Join now for an invitation to next summer’s social.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.