One never knows what questions might pop up on “Jeopardy!” — and earlier this week local viewers were surprised to hear Mount Airy and Mayberry Days mentioned on the long-running television quiz show.
During Monday night’s game, this city was referred to in a clue highlighting its distinction as actor Andy Griffith’s hometown and the site of the related Mayberry Days event held here annually.
“Mayberry Days is a September festival in Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy in this state.”
Monday night’s episode was being broadcast for the first time and due to the secrecy involved in assuring “Jeopardy!” contestants are freshly encountering material, there was no advance notice of the clue involving the city.
Executive Director Tanya Jones of the Surry Arts Council, which sponsors Mayberry Days, was among those caught totally unaware by the mention of it and Mount Airy on national television.
Jones normally watches “Jeopardy!” with her husband Hobart. But on Monday night they instead were tuned in to a college basketball game featuring her favorite team, Duke, which was shellacking Notre Dame on the Blue Devils’ home court at the same time the quiz show was airing.
But word soon spread about the mention of Mayberry Days/Mount Airy, which lit up social media networks in its aftermath.
“We’ve got a bunch of emails and texts from fans from all over,” Jones said, including visual evidence of what she had missed on TV at the moment the question actually appeared. “They were sending texts of the screen shot.”
The Surry Arts Council official was pleased that Mount Airy/Mayberry Days had gained special prominence through the iconic TV show hosted by Alex Trebek which is now in its 34th season.
“It’s exciting to have a festival you created being a ‘Jeopardy!’ question,” Jones said of the Mayberry Days observance launched in 1990. “You can’t get much better press.”
All in all, Monday night was good for Jones.
“It doesn’t get better than Duke winning and Mayberry Days on ‘Jeopardy!’”
The local references on the nationally syndicated program created a stir around town this week.
“It definitely has,” Jones said.
Yet some of the social media traffic generated, including on the Facebook page of the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce, have pointed to one negative aspect of the event. It involves the fact that none of the three contestants were able to supply the right answer to the Andy Griffith-related question of North Carolina.
It was among five contained in a category titled “Native Sons” in the show’s Double Jeopardy! or second round, which focused on ways those hailing from various places have been honored. In addition to Andy Griffith, the subjects of the clues included astronaut Neil Armstrong, author Kurt Vonnegut, blues musician B.B. King and author Mark Twain.
When the Mayberry Days clue appeared, Monday’s defending champion, Jennifer Tomassi, a freelance writer from Los Angeles, immediately answered “what is Pennsylvania?” That was understandable since a neighborhood in Philadelphia is known as Mount Airy.
The other two contestants, from Washington state and Connecticut, supplied no responses at all and the question officially was logged as a “triple stumper.”
Another triple stumper resulted from a clue regarding a museum dedicated to Neil Armstrong in his hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio.
One contestant incorrectly guessed Charles Lindbergh as the honoree of that museum, while the others had no clue at all about the answer. This led some local social media posters to react with comments that Monday night’s show did not necessarily feature the greatest trio of contestants.
The Surry Arts Council official, however, is grateful for the mere mention of Mount Airy and Mayberry Days on national TV.
“It was great,” Jones said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.