What a difference one week made in downtown Mount Airy, which on Saturday, Oct. 14, was filled with the sights and sounds of the Autumn Leaves Festival — and exactly seven days later hosted ghostly scenes.
The festival craft and food vendors were replaced Saturday by the owners of hundreds of high-performance cars, antique vehicles, custom hot rods and various other unique rides.
Their numbers were matched by crowds eager to see them and feed their desire for nostalgia and appreciation for fine examples of automotive technology during the last entry in the 2017 Mayberry Cool Cars & Rods Cruise-In series.
Yet there was another attraction for Saturday’s event sponsored by the Downtown Business Association, which launched the series in June. It involved a number of vehicles decorated in celebration of Halloween, which was the theme of the October cruise-in due to its proximity to that holiday on Oct. 31.
Skeletal figures seemed to be fashionable, with several of the bony characters perched at the wheels of vehicles ranging from a 1940s Willys Jeep to a Chevy Corvette and a 1957 Ford Country Sedan station wagon.
One owner of a Chevrolet Z-28 Camaro even went the extra mile by positioning a small skeleton at the front of the engine which appeared to be raising the hood.
Another Halloween touch was added by the owner of the skeleton-manned Corvette, who placed trays of candy on the trunk lid and hood for the enjoyment of passersby. Other vehicles were adorned with bats, spiders and jack-o-lantern characters.
Meanwhile, music suitable for the occasion blared from a DJ station at the gazebo of Carlos Jones Blue Ridge Park at the corner of North Main and West Oak streets. Among the more-macabre selections heard was “Last Kiss,” a 1960s tune about a teen who borrows his father’s car to take his sweetheart out on a date, only to crash on a rainy highway and fatally injure her.
Similar to the Munster Koach used to transport the title family in “The Munsters” television series, such a song was evidence that horror and America’s automotive history go hand in hand to a certain extent.
One person who definitely was not terrified Saturday was Downtown Business Association President Phil Marsh. He managed a big smile while trying to find a few remaining spots for “late-arriving” vehicles — even before the official 4 p.m. start of the cruise-in.
Not only did vehicles have to be parked farther north on Main Street than usual, Franklin Street and other adjoining roadways also were taken by exhibitors. Nearly every available spot along North Main from West Pine Street to Independence Boulevard was filled.
“I had cars this morning at 7 a.m.,” Marsh reported while directing the driver of a classic black roadster into one of the few remaining parking spots near Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. “I was here at 6 (a.m.)”
Those not parked were cruising back and forth along the main drag that had one lane open for cruising, with their loud engines amplified by the echo among the row of downtown buildings.
This reflected the steadily increasing popularity of the Mount Airy cruise-in series that began several years ago.
“The word’s got out,” Marsh said of the monthly events that draw attendees from a wide area of North Carolina and Virginia.
“We’ve got people coming in from everywhere.”
While the total vehicle count for Saturday’s cruise-in had not been finalized, Marsh seemed comfortable in proclaiming, “it’ll be a big turnout today.”
Last month’s cruise-in attracted a record number of unique vehicles, an estimated 500 to 600, leading Marsh to indicate Saturday that the 2017 series was probably the city’s most successful ever.
“This has been a big year,” the DBA president said.
“It has really been great — we’ve had a big turnout.”
Marsh expressed thanks to the corporate sponsors for this year’s cruise-in series, including Scenic Ford, Scenic Collision Center and Sowers Construction, with many downtown merchants and volunteers also providing support along with Mount Airy Visitors Center.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.