Open Mic

Has There Ever Been a More Beloved Show on TV? 'The Andy Griffith Show' Turns 50, And the Crowds Still Turn Out For 'Mayberry Days'

Aaron Barnhart Posted October 6, 2010 at 5:56 AM

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“The Andy Griffith Show” signed on Oct. 3, 1960. It went on to become one of TV’s all-time successes and a career changer for Griffith (who was trying to live down his all-too-memorable performance as a drunken, angry broadcaster in “A Face in the Crowd”). Ted Turner showed it constantly on TBS, and the Griffith mojo blessed many a television manager in decades of reruns. The theme song [which was filmed by a pond in Franklin Canyon near Beverly Hills] was especially memorable, and has inspired a lot of love since [including this fun contemporary mash-up]…

The show also immortalized Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, N.C., on which the mythic town of Mayberry was modeled.

andygriffith.jpgNeil Engle is a pastor in Overland Park, Kansas, who has been traveling to Mount Airy for the annual Mayberry Days for the past 15 years. I first heard from him in 2006 after he won an auction for a squad car sold by a local resident, Tom Hellebrand, who wanted to build a Barney Fife statue in honor of Don Knotts, who had died earlier that year. The statue became a bit of a fiasco — the Knotts widow said she wouldn’t mind a statue, but one of Don, not Barney — and so did the car, which broke down on the way home. Engle got the car towed back to Kansas and subsequently restored it with help from church members.

Thousands of visitors attend Mayberry Days every year and crowd into the stores with the very familiar names, pose with actors who played characters on the show, and rub elbows with people who kinda look like the original stars. “Much of the time is spent just walking the streets of Mt. Airy-seeing other fans, and enjoying the tribute artists that dress up as TAGS characters,” writes Engle.

“A Mayberry Days ‘must’ is having a fried porked chop sandwich at the Snappy Lunch-the restaurant where Andy ate baloney sandwiches as a kid, and the only original Mt. Airy restaurant mentioned in an episode. People wait up to two hours to get in and have one! I only had to wait 45 minutes for mine on Friday. It’s also customary to poke your head in at Floyd’s Barbershop. At the local movie theater, episodes of TAGS are shown and then a cast member involved in those episodes do a Q and A.

“I also toured the new Andy Griffith museum. Andy’s friend Emmett Forest has over the years received items/memorabilia from Andy and others, and has brought it together into a new museum.”

(Thank you Mr. Naidus for the YouTube)