A Mount Airy resident who “brought the world to Mayberry” has been tapped for a statewide tourism honor.
Tanya Jones, longtime executive director of the Surry Arts Council, received a Winner’s Circle Award this week during the Visit NC 365 Tourism Conference in Winston-Salem. The Visit NC organization spearheads tourism promotion activities for attractions around the state, providing the official travel and tourism website for North Carolina.
Jones was won of four Winner’s Circle Award inductees recognized during a Monday luncheon of the annual Visit North Carolina 365 Conference, which draws more than 500 attendees. The three-day event was held at Benton Convention Center in downtown Winston-Salem.
Others honored were Chuck Hobgood, president of North Carolina Amateur Sports and a founder of Cycle NC; Dana Clark, professor of hospitality and tourism management at Appalachian State University; and Harris Prevost, vice president for operations at Grandfather Mountain.
Jones joined fellow Surry County native Charlie Shelton (2012) on the list of inductees for the Winner’s Circle recognition program that began in 2004.
It has grown to more than 50 honorees, including Richard Petty, a charter member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame; Peggy Kirk Bell, the late women’s golf pioneer; and the late Hugh Morton of Grandfather Mountain
Jones said Thursday that she was not expecting to be inducted.
“I found out about this in January and was both surprised and humbled with this incredible honor,” she said while recalling an earlier event.
“I spoke at this conference 20 years ago at the invitation of Wayne Martin, executive director of the North Carolina Arts Council, who was one of my guests. Sharing the event on Monday with special mentors made it really meaningful for me.“
Jones hailed as ‘pioneer’
The Surry Arts Council official was presented with her Winner’s Circle Award by Jessica Icenhour Roberts, executive director of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority.
In remarks highlighting Jones’ selection for the honor, Roberts referred to her as “a pioneer in the travel and tourism industry in Mount Airy and Surry County.”
Jones has been responsible for bringing visitors to the local area for years, Roberts added. “She has been a mentor to me and is someone that I look up to and highly respect for her work in and around North Carolina and Surry County and someone I work closely with,” the tourism official said.
The Mount Airy native is a graduate of Duke University with a B.S. degree in zoology. Jones has been executive director of the Surry Arts Council for 30 years, along with chairing numerous boards and fundraising campaigns.
While serving as a Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce vice chairman in the 1980s, Jones began working to implement an occupancy tax that has generated millions of dollars for Mount Airy.
She continually advocates for place-based tourism and economic development. Jones’ years of service to her community have resulted in Governor’s Volunteer Awards, recognition as the 1986 Citizen of the Year locally and tourism commendations from the city of Mount Airy.
Mayberry connection constant
In 1990, Jones founded the annual Mayberry Days festival and facilitated the donation to the Surry Arts Council of the Historic Earle Theatre, which now houses the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall. Surry County is a part of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area due in part to Jones’ efforts. She also was instrumental in getting the Earle Theatre included on the Blue Ridge Music Trails.
In addition, Jones coordinated efforts with Andy Griffith and the TV Land cable network to secure the “Andy and Opie” statue in 2002 and raised funds to build Blackmon Amphitheatre in 2004. In 2009, she did the same for the Andy Griffith Museum, which hosts more than 50,000 visitors annually.
“Tanya continues to work tirelessly to bring in visitors from all over the world to come and visit during Mayberry Days and year-round,” Roberts further remarked of Jones’ efforts during the awards luncheon.
“Many of our visitors that come during Mayberry Days have been coming here for years and some of them even take a week-long vacation in Mount Airy during this wonderful week of Mayberry Days.”
All this took shape under the appreciative gaze of the man who had launched the phenomenon in the early 1960s.
“Andy Griffith was pleased that Tanya’s work to promote Mount Airy as Mayberry was done so as to benefit the local arts community and perhaps spark an interest in a young person the way it did for him,” Roberts told the audience.
“Although he lived a good distance away in Manteo, Andy stayed in contact with Tanya and she became a bridge for the famous actor and his hometown. He was there in spirit, and will always remain there in spirit, thanks to Tanya.”
Roberts summarized Jones’ relationship with Andy Griffith with a statement that made an impression on the Benton Convention Center crowd:
“Andy Griffith brought Mayberry to the world, but it was Tanya Jones who brought the world to Mayberry in her hometown of Mount Airy North Carolina.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.