With thousands expected for the inaugural Mayberry in the Midwest festival on May 17-18, many who presumably have never been to Danville, Ind., I figured providing some insider knowledge might just come in handy. (If this is the first you’ve heard of the festival, read more about it here.)Barney 4-2010 012

So, here are a few tips to make the most of your visit:

  • VIP Experience – If you want to meet some of the festival’s special guests, including the numerous tribute artists and two of the show’s original characters, in an intimate setting where you won’t have to fight the crowds, a few limited tickets still remain for a Meet & Greet dinner Friday night, May 16. Tickets are $20, and they can still be had online by clicking here.
  • Parking – With limited parking Downtown, the best option that will save you time and headaches is to park less than a mile away at Danville High School, 100 Warrior Way, on the west side of town. A $1 parking fee per vehicle will be charged, but there is ample parking and you will receive an Events Guide and get to enjoy a short, nostalgic trolley ride into town.
  • Find the Welcome Center – Serving as the epicenter for this festival, the Welcome Center, 68 S. Jefferson St. on the west side of the square, will allow visitors to pick up an Events Guide (if you didn’t park at the high school) filled with a map, schedule and other information. This is also the place where you can ask questions, seek recommendations or simply relax. The Welcome Center also will house a Mayberry Memory Wall where guests can fill out a note listing their name, hometown and favorite memory of the festival, so make sure to stop by there before you leave.

    Tribute Artist Group Photo lo-res You have to interact or at least watch the professional Tribute Artists who will be milling about and performing on stage representing many of the characters from the show.

  • Can’t-Miss Activities – So what do you do once you get here? I’m glad you asked though there will be so many doings (as Andy might have said) that it really depends on how much time you have and your preference, but here are a couple I recommend:
    • Mayberry Parade – 11 a.m. on Saturday only. This will be a real treat especially for diehard fans as there will be a pack of Opies, Tribute Artists, a band playing the show’s theme and some surprise entries that fans of the show will quickly recognize.
    • Dillard Bluegrass Concert – 7 p.m. Saturday at Ellis Park. Rodney Dillard, who played one of the Darling brothers on the original show, will perform with his band. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 on the day of the show. To purchase advanced tickets, click here. Concert goers will need to bring their own blankets or lawn chairs for the show.
    • Opie’s Big Fish Toss – There will be a number of entertaining contests going on throughout the two-day festival beginning at 12:30 p.m. both days on the stage located on the west side of the square (for a complete list or to register for one, click here). But if you only have time to watch one, make sure to catch Opie’s Big Fish Toss, which should be a hoot as participants try to snag large, rubber fish out of the air.
    • Squad Car Nationals – Don’t let the timing of this event (held at 4 p.m. Sunday) dissuade you from attending. After 11 years, this free event at Ellis Park will be held outside the state of Alabama for the first time. This club of old squad car enthusiasts will compete head to head in a relay race of sorts stopping at eight stations and performing a task at each station before moving on. Serious entertainment and bragging rights are associated with this event.
    • Take a Break – One final tip I wanted to share is the historic Royal Theater, located on the east side of the square, will be showing reruns of The Andy Griffith Show like you’ve never seen them before on the big screen from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. each day for free. This 200-seat theater will provide a great oasis for families to sit and relax or simply a place for guys to hang out while their wives shop.

There is so much more going on that weekend that I didn’t have enough time or space to list everything. You can get more information at the Mayberry in the Midwest website or the Visit Hendricks County blog.

I hope to see y’all May 17-18 for the first-ever Mayberry in the Midwest festival.