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Fargo mural set for Canteen Alley

Mount Airy is gearing up to honor one of the area’s most famous daughters. Donna Fargo is getting the mural treatment in downtown Mount Airy, with work tentatively scheduled to start in May.

To help cover costs, organizers are holding “A Bedazzling Hometown Fan Experience” featuring a fashion show and auction on Sunday, March 26 at the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History at 2 p.m. Due to heavy interest in the auction and high demand for tickets, organizers said they decided to add a second show at 4 p.m.

There will be Donna Fargo items in the show that many have never seen before. Ann Vaughn, one of the organizers, said the museum has several items and artifacts that have not been on display. Fargo is also sending items from her own collection to be displayed and some to be auctioned.

The event is a fundraiser to collect money for the mural by Triad artist JEKS which is going to be placed on the wall in the alley outside Walker’s Soda Fountain, at 175 N. Main Street in Mount Airy, facing the painted Coca-Cola ad on the opposite alley wall.

Tickets for the show are $20 per person and may be purchased at the museum, the Mount Airy Visitors Center, and F. Rees Ladies Upstairs. Donations for the mural are being accepted at the First Community Bank on Independence Boulevard, organizers said the tellers are aware of the collection.

Direct donations can also be sent to Donna Fargo Mural Committee, 566 Crossingham Road, Mount Airy, 27030. A QR code link has been included on the group’s Facebook page:

Both Fargo and JEKS will be on hand during July 4 for the parade where they will serve as co-grand marshals. If the timing and weather work out, the dedication of the Fargo mural would be held then as well, Vaughn said.

Show and auction

For the “fashionista event” at the museum mannequins will display several of Fargo’s clothing items and there will be a fashion show with upwards of 20 Donna Fargo models showing off some of her dresses “and never before seen memorabilia.”

There is to be an online auction from March 20-26 on a variety of donated items from local businesses, autographed memorabilia, and Donna Fargo items that were made famous by Fargo, such as her red sweater from the cover of the album “Because of You.” Fargo offered inside information and said it is called the Marilyn Monroe sweater because her winking image adorns the sweater — it is just not seen on the CD cover; you heard it here first.

She explained some of her older CDs can be hard to find so she tracked down a copy of album “Fargo Country” and included it along with the t-shirt reading “#1 Fargo” from that album cover. A business savvy and multi-talented woman she knew, “adding the CD will make that more valuable.”

This is after all a fundraiser to raise the dollars needed to fund the project from Greensboro muralist JEKS, who has become almost as well known locally as he is in the Piedmont Triad and points beyond. Vaughn said his talent is becoming well-known and that Fargo deserves the best.

His unique skill in taking an array of photos to create a one-of-a-kind art installation already brings folks to Melva’s Alley where local music legend Melva Huston is honored; and, of course, the smiling visages of Andy Griffith greets drives along Renfro Street.

These art installations are essentially one-time costs that will continue to delight tourists while increasing awareness and appreciation for Fargo while she can appreciate the art and the adulation.

For JEKS this is the first collaboration he has done with a living subject and he and Fargo have had discussions on the design. Fargo said, “We submitted some photos and he found some on his own. I trust him totally and he’s come up with a good design with the CD cover picture in the front center. It’s colorful and very nice.”

Fargo said she is sending a variety of items to the auction above just her clothing items, including a full set of books and packages of her greeting cards. Ever a writer, she said she has more than 2,000 greeting cards in print from the same publisher as her books. “I was writing songs and working the road and I said to Stan that I thought I might like to write some greeting cards.”

The rest is history and she said her cards can be found in Cracker Barrel locations, card shops, and high-end truck stops across the county. One of the organizers, Donna Hiatt, provided a sampling of beautifully designed cards on heavy paper stock with the words of Mount Airy’s own troubadour on the inside to be shown here.

Go West

For those wondering if it’s too late in life to try something Fargo says go for it. “I didn’t start writing until after I graduated from college and started teaching in Southern California. I majored in English and psychology; I was trying to figure out my own dysfunction.”

“My brother knew I wanted to be a singer, but I was bashful. So, he found a company that was looking for a girl to sing demos for them, so I did. I went and took two demos I made at WPAQ, and he listened to them and said I was country, so I said OK,” she recalled.

That man was Stan Silver who became her longtime manager and producer, and she said “one true love.”

It was he who taught her to play the guitar. “I asked him to teach me how to play if I’m not a pain and it doesn’t take too long. I figured I could write my own songs. He taught me and I wrote, I studied the songs on the radio to figure out what about them I liked and then I started writing.”

“It was 1972 and ‘Happiest Girl in the Whole USA’ was No. 1 and I was still teaching. I was offered a gig in Las Vegas to open for Roy Clark,” she said. She knew this could be her chance to leave teaching and chase her dream, “but we were in the middle of exams. I had to get to Vegas, but I wanted to grade my own exams, so I did before I resigned, and we were on the road until about 2006.”

Trust the signs

Fargo has had a variety of health challenges from a MS diagnosis in the late ’70s and two recent strokes, but she said that staying active makes helps her. “It is good to be busy and it’s good to be busy doing what you love.”

Fargo said after her husband died in 2021 that, “I was just devastated and didn’t have any music in me. I was walking through the hall and my hand opened a cabinet door and pulled out a little bag.”

“I had no mind of this, it just happened, and something had me open that door. Stan and I had gone into the studio at different times and recorded songs I had been writing. In that little bag were masters and finished versions of six of my songs. I listened to them, and they were perfect, it was like something took over me and I knew I had to put that CD out for the people who had always followed me and been asking when I was gonna put new music out.”

While the songs were her creations, finding them felt like divine providence to her. “I didn’t know how I was going to get through that grief thing, so I knew that was a supernatural experience of me opening that door and pulling out those songs, it instantly changed my attitude and gave me something to focus on to get out of the pit of depression.”

“It wasn’t a mind thing, this was a God thing and it did so much for me, I thought wow God really does love us. It was like God and Stan got together to save my life,” Fargo said. She released those six songs along with a spoken word track including a “special message” at the end of her latest CD “All Because of You.”

Fargo said, “”I just like to write and as I evolved, I have tried to share things in my books that I have learned. When I find that I am satisfied with the truth I’m about to tell, that’s a good time to share it, I think.”

About her last book “Everything is Possible with God” she said she had mixed feelings. “I thought, hmm, everything is possible with God and here I am in the depths of despair. So, I pulled some things out and put some more serious things I’d written since Stan died… finally I said everything is possible with God, but everything is not guaranteed.”

Fargo said growing up she had a wish. “One of my childhood dreams was to be happy and when I look back now I think ‘That’s interesting, you wanted to be happy and you grew to write the song Happiest Girl in the Whole USA.’”

Her smash number one hit in 1972 caught the eye of one Tanya Tucker, as legend has it. Husband Stan had demoed the album for Tucker and her agent, and they wanted the song, “but not the singer,” Fargo said. “Well, that wasn’t available to them. I was writing for me.”

“Donna Fargo is part of history, our history, and she’s still here,” Hiatt said. “If the younger generation got to know her for what she is and her writing, for her music, for her Christian humanity, the world will be a better place.”

“She has been synonymous with the song ‘Happiest Girl in USA.’ She is positive with everything she does and has written many self-help books that are as current today as when she wrote them,” Ann Vaughn said.

“Everyone needs the chance to make contact with Donna Fargo. It will definitely brighten their look at life and their attitude. I guarantee come July 4 that Mount Airy is going to be the happiest hometown in the USA.”



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