Being fun and entertaining is a goal of most every parade, and the annual Mayberry Days Parade Saturday morning in downtown Mount Airy pulled out all the stops in that regard.
For about 45 minutes, huge crowds lined the length of Main Street from Independence Boulevard to Rockford Street to watch a procession that might have seemed strange to someone who had never watched “The Andy Griffith Show.”
After all, it didn’t, for example, feature the customary beauty pageant winners — instead there were colorful costumed characters such as the Pickle Queen, Pork Princess and Potato Queen. One person rode a cow pretending that it was a horse, while a nervous-looking deputy (who looked like Barney Fife) zipped up and down the street in a golf cart while allegedly maintaining order.
At least a dozen 1960s Ford Galaxies (the Mayberry Squad Car) were in the procession.
Parade onlookers also witnessed a glasses-wearing man in a white coat impersonating a barber (Floyd from the show), and at least two men wearing in ill-fitting white suits who acted intoxicated (Otis). The person riding the cow also was paying homage to the lovable town drunk, who once bought a cow thinking it was a horse.
Others were there as the Darling Family, and pretty much anyone else who was a character in “The Andy Griffith Show.”
One dark-haired woman who bore a resemblance to actress Elinor Donahue, holding up a sign stating “Ellie for council,” was another parade participant, recalling the town druggist character Donahue played in the series.
Meanwhile, real-life “Andy Griffith Show” actors such as Clint Howard (Leon) and Maggie Peterson (Charlene Darling) stood on trucks or rode in convertibles while smiling and waving to enthusiastic fans. Actress Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou) led the parade while riding shotgun in a classic convertible, as Ronnie Schell was perched in a military vehicle reminiscent of his days as Gomer Pyle’s buddy, although he also guest-starred on the Griffith show.
“Not a tiny event”
When added up, the numerous parade entries spelled F-U-N, and lived up to organizers’ intentions of providing a good time for those watching, such as Tony and Donna Masters of Richmond, Kentucky.
“We’re big Mayberry fans,” Donna Masters confirmed.
They arrived early with a pair of deck chairs and occupied a strategic spot about halfway down North Main Street while soaking up some beautiful early autumn weather and waiting for the event to begin.
The parade is always a must-see event for the Kentucky residents who have been attending Mayberry Days for 11 years. And Donna Masters says that’s because it’s a free-wheeling event with parade participants donning funny get-ups and living up to the comedic personalities of each character they are portraying.
“And it’s really silly-acting and it’s OK to let your hair down and have fun,” Masters added of the desired atmosphere. “And it’s a good, wholesome fun.”
Some of the Mayberry notables in the parade reinforced its jovial spirit while interacting with spectators along the way, many who were snapping photos and yelling to the actors as they were recognized.
That was the case with Clint Howard, who played a young boy named Leon on the show who wore a cowboy hat and carried a peanut butter sandwich he always offered a bite from to anyone who was near.
That story line continued Saturday as Howard joked with fans while riding on the back of a truck.
“Where’s your sandwich?” one man asked him.
“I ate it,” Howard replied.
“You’re supposed to share,” the fan said in return.
“It’s in my digestive tract,” Howard then said. “You want me to share?”
But “Leon” did inform everyone within hearing distance that he prefers using only one slice of bread for his peanut butter sandwiches nowadays.
All the Mayberry Days special guests seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, which Executive Director Tanya Jones of the Surry Arts Council, the Mayberry Days sponsor, says did not involve any acting on their part.
One factor for this is that with Mayberry Days spread over different venues, the Saturday morning parade brings everyone together in one location — fans and “Andy Griffith Show” notables alike.
“That’s a very big deal for the folks who were on the show who come,” Jones said of the parade, “because it’s not a tiny event.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.