The public has an opportunity to experience farm life this weekend — without even having to leave the streets of Mount Airy.
This will occur through Mayberry Farm Fest, a downtown event launched in 2003 which — similar to the agricultural industry itself — is still going strong. It will kick off with a tractor parade Friday along North Main Street, to begin at 6 p.m., and a day-long slate of activities Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Farm Fest is going to be a lot bigger this year,” said Phil Marsh, the president of the Downtown Business Association that sponsors the event, which he coordinates along with Gail Hiatt, operator of Mount Airy Tractor Toyland on North Main Street.
This is true in terms of the scope of the area closed to traffic to accommodate the festival on Saturday, from Pine Street all the way north to Independence Boulevard. Last year, Oak Street was the cutoff point.
That also is indicative of how attractions for Farm Fest have grown for this year, which collectively add up to a gathering that is educational as well as fun.
“It’s a great family event,” Marsh said.
Tractors, music and more
“Already we’ve got at least 55 tractors lined up for the parade,” Hiatt said Tuesday of the Friday procession. Children also are encouraged to ride their toy tractors/cars and bikes that night.
Additional tractors likely will show up for the parade and to also be displayed on Saturday for the public to see up close.
Along with the tractors, which are antiques in many cases, festival-goers will be able to view old farming equipment. “We have a steam engine that will be here,” Hiatt said.
Mayberry Farm Fest 2018 also will involve more live animals, she said, including an award-winning chicken a young lady will be bringing to the event.
Special music is to be provided by The White Top Mountain Band, an old-time group from Virginia that is a fan favorite. It will perform Saturday beginning at 4 p.m. from a stage to be set up in the area of Mayberry Antique Mall.
Clogging and square dancing also are part of the lineup.
“We have all kinds of things for kids to do,” Hiatt continued.
This will include pony rides, a mechanical bull, cakewalks, a watermelon seed-spitting contest, train rides and other activities.
“We have several new vendors this year,” Hiatt said, pointing out that craft sales involved are limited to hand-made items.
Plants will be sold, also.
The Mayberry Farm Fest coordinators are happy about the fact that agencies such as the N.C. Department of Agriculture, which will have someone giving out information there this year, are increasingly becoming involved with the event.
“We’re getting a little more interest from the state on this,” Hiatt said.
She believes the continuing popularity of Farm Fest reflects a desire by the public to revert to a simpler time.
“I think the world’s so crazy,” Hiatt said, “and I think people are looking to the old ways — they enjoy the slow-down” Mayberry Farm Fest provides.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.