Mount Airy, NC - A quarter century of bringing Mayberry to life will be celebrated during the 25th annual Mayberry Days festival in Andy Griffith's hometown.
The festival, which is Sept. 25-28, pays tribute to Mount Airy's role as inspiration for the idyllic hamlet of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show.
There will be guest appearances from actors on The Andy Griffith Show and a bluegrass concert featuring Rodney Dillard, who played one of the "Darling Boys" on several episodes.
A special highlight this year is Karen Knotts' show "Tied Up in Knotts" at the Earle Theater. It's a tribute to her late father, Don Knotts, who played the colorful deputy Barney Fife.
Over 30,000 people now attend Mayberry Days – a far cry from its humble beginnings in 1990 when Tanya Jones of the Surry Arts Council created a small event with a sparse budget.
"It was a one-day event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Andy Griffith Show," says Jones. "We had an actor from the show and planned to do it one year. It ended with people calling back and saying: 'We want more.' They really got into it and the rest is history."
There will be 14 actors this year, led by hometown sweetheart Betty Lynn, who played Barney Fife's girlfriend Thelma Lou. Also slated to appear are: Maggie Peterson (Charlene Darling); James Best (Jim Lindsey); Morgan Brittany (Opie's girlfriend Mary Alice Carter); Jackie Joseph (Sweet Romena); and George Lindsey Jr. (son of George "Goober" Lindsey).
Joy Ellison, a child actor who had multiple roles on the show, makes her first appearance at Mayberry Days this year.
Other activities include a golf tournament, Colonel Tim's Talent Time, trivia contests, lectures about the show by professor Neal Brower, and Saturday's Mayberry Days Parade. Fans also enjoy interacting with tribute artists like Mayberry Deputy David Browning, and going to the annual meeting of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club (TAGSRWC).
" For 25 years we've seen an increase in enthusiasm. The spirit of Mayberry is definitely enduring and timeless. We get calls every day from people who have never been to the festival," says Jones. "It's a gathering of like-minded people who have strong family values and love a simpler time. And that's what this represents."