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Plans sprouted for Farm Fest’s return

Agriculture is a tough business, accompanied by hard work, stress, weather crises and uncertain incomes at year’s end — but farmers develop a certain perseverance, which also is true of a local event honoring them.

The coronavirus has been another addition to that list of obstacles which caused the annual Mayberry Farm Fest to be cancelled for the past two years. But with a sense of resolve that would put any mule to shame, it is returning next weekend to the streets of downtown Mount Airy.

“It will be our first time back since COVID,” key organizer Gail Hiatt emphasized in detailing the resurrection of Mayberry Farm Fest for what she said will be its 16th year.

The two-day May 20-21 event is scheduled to feature farm animals including a petting zoo, pony rides and other attractions geared toward children, live music, interactive displays, demonstrations, antique tractors and other equipment, heritage and cultural exhibits, crafts and more.

All that will be on tap next Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., when North Main Street is closed to vehicular traffic between Pine Street and an area just south of Independence Boulevard near Brannock and Hiatt Furniture.

The entertainment lineup will begin with an open jam from 9 a.m. to noon, with The Unique Sound of the Mountains — Larry Sigmon and Martha Spencer, to play from 1 to 2 p.m.

A Danceworks performance is scheduled for 2 p.m., and Dancemix with Tracie will be on hand from 2:15 to 2:45 p.m.

Danceworks is to return at 2:50 p.m. with Gap Civil, an old-time and traditional country band from Sparta, slated to perform from 3 to 4 p.m.

A watermelon seed-spitting contest is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. and cakewalks at 3:45.

Parade always a hit

Festivities for this year’s celebration of agriculture will kick off Friday with a tractor parade down North Main Street, to begin at 6 p.m.

The parade typically has showcased a procession of 30 or more tractors of various models, some dating to the 1940s and 1950s.

Many owners involved have devoted much time and effort to restoring the tractors and want to show off the finished products in their hometown, said Hiatt, who is co-chairing Mayberry Farm Fest with Downtown Business Association President Phil Marsh.

They are excited about the resumption of the parade, usually accompanied by spectators lining both sides of the street.

This year’s tractor parade will be enhanced by the presence of the Tucker sisters, Carson Parry and Roe Roe, who will serve as its grand marshals, with a horse-drawn wagon to lead the procession.

Roe Roe was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2019 and recently completed chemotherapy treatments. Her big sister Carson Parry has been with Roe Roe every step of the way.

“Both of these girls are warriors and deserved to be celebrated,” says a Mount Airy Visitors Center announcement regarding their involvement.

A kids’ parade is scheduled after the main tractor parade, during which children are invited to ride their toy tractors/cars and bikes.

Keeping history alive

Many people were disappointed that Mayberry Farm Fest wasn’t held in 2021 as the pandemic was subsiding somewhat, but insurance restrictions did not allow this to happen, Hiatt explained.

They included many older farmers who have enjoyed attending over the years and appreciated the ways in which the event has perpetuated their way of life.

“A lot of our history seems to be dying out,” Hiatt said. “I think it (Mayberry Farm Fest) helps keep it alive.”

Despite the two-year interruption, efforts to bring the festival back have been seamless, according to Hiatt.

“It hasn’t been difficult at all — everybody, I think, was ready for it,” she said. “I think everybody else is more excited that we (organizers) are.”

In fact, more vendors are expected this year along with some new attractions, including participation by a ranch owner from Jonesville who is to “bring a lot of stuff this year” in terms of animals, according to Hiatt.

“It is just a fun weekend for the family.”



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