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Archive for the ‘Mayberry’ Category

It’s a sentimental spot for some, a slice of the Mayberry myth for others. But either way the old city jail on City Hall Street leaves visitors and former employees distraught at its current condition. And now’s not a time to pour much money into successful tourism attractions, let alone decaying ones.

Enter Hampton Inn, which runs a program that rejuvenates historical sites across the country. The jail has been nominated, but whether it’s selected depends on how many folks go to Hampton’s site and vote to have it saved. Seems simple enough, but the old city jail’s competition is … well … older. A 19th century plantation and a 18th century home both carry more historical cache than a 20th century lockup. The wild card, of course, is the King of Andy. The old city jail is a tourist attraction because of its connection, however contrived, to the jail seen frequently on The Andy Griffith Show (which in reality was no more than a set in California). We’ll see if that translates to votes this month, or if the jail’s potential saviors bestow landmark status elsewhere.

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By now most political followers in Mount Airy have heard about Andy Griffith’s endorsement of Barack Obama, and by “endorsement” I mean his appearance in a video masterminded by Ron Howard that recreates a scene from The Andy Griffith show to demonstrate its Democratic support. The full clip can be seen here and, in my opinion, the spoof of Happy Days with Henry Winkler is far funnier.

What’s interesting is how fast word of Mount Airy’s “reaction” can spread, showing just how captive our public image is to the Mayberry brand. It goes like this, the Winston-Salem Journal does a quick story about locals reaction that only interviews a few people to come to the conclusion that folks here are unhappy about the clip. The article gets picked up by the Associated Press and within 24 hours it’s running in Charlotte, in Hendersonville, in northern Virginia, in Greenville (there they say it’s creating quite a stir) in Salisbury, and in Myrtle Beach. I could keep going, but you get the point.

What’s locals’ real reaction? Well everyone I ask has a different take, especially since it’s no secret that Griffith likes to publicly endorse Democrats. You’d have to interview more than a few people to get a true barometer. Just like you have to look beyond Mayberry to get a taste of Mount Airy’s true colors. But in the world of mass media, our identity gets shaped lightening quick to the outsiders looking in.

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Mayberry out west

Just got back in from vacation, so I missed out on all the Mayberry Days hoopla. But there was no escaping Mayberry talk. Of the 30-40 people I met during the trip not hailing from North Carolina, none knew where Mount Airy was located. Some could barely even recognize Winston-Salem’s location. But a fair chunk placed me once Andy Griffith entered the conversation, whether or not they were fans of the show. I’m guessing anyone from here who travels gets stuck with that identifier during small talk. Or are there alternative responses for when someone from Texas, Chicago, Oregon, Japan, etc. asks “where are you from?”

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Mount Airy’s cultural icon just keeps popping up in state political discussions. First came Andy Griffith’s ad touting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue. Then Perdue’s opponent Pat McCrory used Griffith’s most famous character, Sheriff Andy Taylor, to drive home points about the state of the NC criminal justice system during a debate last month.

Now a Raleigh-based polling organization, Public Policy Polling, has released the results of its latest survey: who would Sheriff Taylor vote for in the presidential and governor’s race? Check out the results here.

I’m not sure which is more interesting, that Sheriff Taylor would split his ticket (McCain for president, Perdue for governor) or that 11 percent of all Republicans surveyed have an unfavorable opinion of Griffith as a person. Only 5 percent of Democrats feel that way, probably because he often endorses that party’s candidates.

Among the most interesting results to the poll’s coordinator, Tom Jensen, is that 6 percent think Sheriff Taylor would vote Libertarian.

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Torn on who to vote for in the Democratic primary for governor? Andy Griffith has some words for you. Mount Airy’s most famous son just came out with an ad supporting Bev Perdue over Richard Moore, much the way he supported Mike Easley in the 2004 race. Just like their presidential counterparts, the Democratic governor hopefuls are pretty similar when it comes to policy stances on key issues. So the cult of personality makes a difference. No wonder Obama and Clinton keep trotting out well known Tarheel politicians and public figures who support their campaigns.. No one still living in Surry County has of yet weighed in. But who, if anyone, could deliver the Surry vote?

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With the Andy Grffith memorabilia collection now safely ensconced at the Surry Arts Council, what should we be doing about a new visitors center for Mount Airy? Should we build a new facilty? If so, downtown or farther out, perhaps by one of the interstate exits? Or should we utilize the chamber or some other existing building?

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Just curious. I know Mayberry Days is a big thing for the community from a tourism standpoint. But if you’re from around here, is it something you eagerly anticipate, or take part in, or do you find something else to do outside the area to avoid the crowds here?

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