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Fans, stars all ready for Mayberry Days

Two years ago, a few actors who appeared in “The Andy Griffith Show” gave voice to something many had felt over the years — that the fans of the show, the people who keep it alive and still touching lives more than 50 years after the original broadcasts left the air, might be the true stars of Mayberry Days and the iconic status the show has maintained over the decades.

That may never be more apparent than this year, when a full contingent of those fans is expected to descend on Mount Airy after last year’s pandemic-limited version of the annual festival.

The 2020 version of the festival showed went off without a hitch, even with limits imposed on the number of people who could be at any of the indoor events and travel restrictions kept some of the fans, and many of the festival’s regular stars, from attending.

But 2021 looks to be nearly back to normal, with perhaps tens of thousands of those fans visiting the real-life inspiration for Mayberry, to catch the shows, visit with old friends, attend the parade, and bask in the general good, old-fashioned welcoming spirit of Mayberry Days.

But the fans won’t be the only ones who will be making a return.

Last year many of the show’s former stars, along with musical guests and entertainers who usually make it to event, were not able to visit because of COVID-19 health concerns and traffic restrictions.

This year, many of them will be returning. While plans can always change, those actors who appeared in the show scheduled to be at the event include Betty Lynn, who, of course, played Thelma Lou; Rodney Dillard who was one of The Darling Boys; Ronnie Schell, who played two separate guest roles before going on to be a regular in the spin-off series “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”; Margaret Kerry who portrayed Helen Scobey and Bess Muggins; Dennis Rush, who played Howie Pruitt; Calvin Peeler, who portrayed Martin on “Mayberry RFD”; LeRoy Mack McNees of The Country Boys; Joy Ellison, who portrayed a number of different child roles; and Clint Howard, the tiny peanut butter and jelly sandwich-chewing cowboy, Leon.

Others planing to attend include Karen Knotts, daughter of Don Knotts; Dick Atkins, the producer of the movie “Murder in Coweta County” which starred Andy Griffith and Johnny Cash; and Laura Hagen, widow of the show’s music director, Earl Hagen.

That doesn’t even touch on the numerous musical artists who will be in concert, comedians giving family-friendly performances, along with talks and lectures, and local landmarks such as The Andy Griffith Museum, the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall, and The Andy Griffith Playhouse being open to the public.

While the cast of guests and stage acts might vary from year to year, and the crowds may swell or shrink a bit from one festival to the next, there is one constant, as described by Keith Thibodeaux, who as a child made multiple appearances on the show as Johnny Paul Jason. While he is not scheduled to attend the 2021 Mayberry Days, his words from a few years ago still ring true, when he was addressing the festival’s opening ceremony.

“It’s a blessing to be here, to visit…I’ll call it Mayberry…here in Mount Airy,” he said Keith Thibodeaux. “I can come here, it feels like Mayberry. This is a place my wife and I can walk down Main Street, sit on a bench, eat ice cream,” without a care in the world, where everything seems right.

“You are what makes that,” he said to the show’s fans crowded into the Blackmon Amphitheatre that day. “You are Mayberry.”

For a complete listing of shows and related events during the 2021 Mayberry Days, visit https://www.surryarts.org/mayberrydays/index.html

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Source: https://www.mtairynews.com

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