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Antique auto club motors into town

In an era of electric cars, self-driving vehicles and other high-tech automotive gadgetry, there’s still room for old school — as proven by the Antique Automobile Club of America’s visit to Mount Airy this week.

Fifty vintage vehicles — including a 1912 Ford Model T that was the oldest of the bunch — came into town as part of the 2021 Southeastern Divisional Fall Tour hosted by the Savannah Region of the club.

“There’s people here from all over the United States,” said Randy Wagoner, who with his wife Sally are among the closest to Mount Airy, being residents of Jamestown in Guilford County.

About 100 members of the Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) are here altogether for the tour encompassing Mount Airy and vicinity which began Monday and will end today.

They represent eight different states including those in the Southeast such as Florida and Georgia, in addition to New York, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

This week’s tour was quite exclusive — limited to 50 vehicles that were required to have been manufactured before March 29, 1971.

Randy and Sally Wagoner barely made the cut even though they were operated a 52-year-old ride — a bright-red 1969 Ford Mustang convertible.

The Jamestown couple are 20-year members of the Antique Automobile Club of America, which is headquartered in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

It is the world’s largest and oldest antique car club with 55,000 members and 350 local regions and chapters across the U.S. and 50 other countries.

The Wagoners’ shiny Mustang drew plenty of admiring stares while parked along North Main Street downtown Wednesday along with other vehicles on the tour.

This mirrored one of the goals of the group while here, “to entertain the city with our cars,” said Lee Froehle, a Savannah resident who is chairing the tour. Froehle came here with her 1930 Ford Phaeton, a model that looks as if it could have been driven by Bonnie and Clyde.

A passion for such vehicles has fueled the AACA’s growth since it was founded during the 1930s.

“Our members and their love of these cars are the foundation of this hobby, and we hope to inspire a younger generation to fall in love as well,” says a statement issued by the group.

“Spirit of Mayberry”

The Antique Automobile Club of America’s first-ever tour to this city was a result of a reconnaissance mission of sorts by Froehle.

“I came up here for a day to see what Mount Airy was all about,” explained the Georgia resident, who knew of its link to actor Andy Griffith and local attractions surrounding his iconic television show. “I thought this would be a very good place to do what I call a spirit of Mayberry tour.”

Sally Wagoner said the club members have been staying at Hampton Inn and visiting places of interest locally during the tour. After checking in at the host hotel earlier this week, they drove to Andy Griffith’s childhood home on East Haymore Street for registration.

A drawing was held for a one-night stay Monday at the old Griffith homeplace that is now a bed and breakfast establishment.

Froehle mentioned that the group also had driven to the Shelton Vineyards winery, White Sulphur Springs and the Blue Ridge Parkway, among other destinations.

A closing banquet was scheduled Thursday night at The Depot Restaurant at Cody Creek.

Froehle said a highlight for her was taking a ride in a car that often has transported local resident Betty Lynn, a retired actress who played Thelma Lou on “The Andy Griffith Show,” in parades.

For all the trivia buffs out there, that vehicle is a 1953 Buick Skylark convertible.

The visit by the Antique Automobile Club of America also prompted enthusiasm from local tourism official Jessica Roberts.

“We are excited to be hosting the Antique Automobile Club Association of America-Southeastern Division in Mount Airy and Surry County,” commented Roberts, executive director of the Mount Airy Tourism Development Authority and the Tourism Partnership of Surry County.

“Many of them were excited to be in the area and enjoyed the Wednesday car show in downtown Mount Airy where they had time to show off their vehicles, shop, explore and eat in downtown Mount Airy,” she added.

“We appreciate them bringing an attraction to Main Street with their unique cars to showcase to other visitors as well who enjoyed looking at them pull into downtown.”

Aside from the amusement aspect is an economic element surrounding such visits, Roberts reminded.

“These groups provide an impact to the community by staying overnight in our accommodations, and shopping and dining and exploring while in the city, and we hope to bring in some others as well during the week in the future.”



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