Is there anything more Americana than Mayberry? I believe the iconic Andy Griffith Show continues to withstand the test of time because of its values. It represents simple, small-town living and relationships forged from slowing down and enjoying life.
With that in mind, I invite you to take a break and embrace that way of life during a festival that celebrates the show in Central Indiana.
If you love the show or simply love authentic, multi-generational family fun, then the Mayberry in the Midwest festival should be on your bucket list of experiences. It returns to Danville, Indiana, May 19-20. You can even help celebrate a milestone as the festival has reached its fifth year.
So, why should you come and what should you make sure to see? I'm glad you asked.
What Visitors Can Expect
To start with, you should anticipate much of the fun and zaniness that makes the show so popular, and most of the activities are FREE. Every aspect of the festival either occurs on the historic Hendricks County Courthouse Square or within a block or two of the square. So, the entire event is pedestrian friendly.
Usually within minutes of arriving, festival goers are welcomed by Tribute Artists that come from all over the country. They do such an amazing job bringing some of the show's favorite characters back to life -- including Barney, Gomer, Goober, Floyd, Otis and many more. They perform on stage once each day as well as mingle with the crowd throughout the festival. They are so good that I sometimes have to remind myself that wasn't the real Floyd or Otis.
Three actors from the original show -- Maggie Peterson Mancuso (Charlene Darling), Margaret Kerry and Ronnie Schell -- as well as the son of George Lindsey (Goober) and the daughter of Andy Griffith also will make appearances this year.
Visitors also can enjoy reruns of The Andy Griffith Show running on the big screen at the historic Royal Theater both days. The Hendricks County Historical Museum will host demonstration tents. Children can enjoy Opie's World Free Kids Zone. The whole family can tour Tractor Town, watch or participate in trivia contests and enjoy numerous bands playing on stage throughout both days of the event. Food and merchandise vendors also will line one side of the square.
I find it hard to pick out specific activities, but since we are often asked, here goes.
- Parade - I highly recommend the annual parade at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The tribute artists, Mayberry dignitaries, old squad cars and even a pack of Opies make this parade so much fun to see.
- U.S. Squad Car Nationals - Speaking of squad cars, a highly underrated event during the festival occurs at 3 p.m. on Saturday. The U.S. Squad Car Nationals pit teams racing in their restored squad cars, one at a time, stopping at pit stops where they must complete a crazy activity or task. The fastest time wins. It is a hoot!
- Q&A with Charlene Darling - Last but certainly not least, for the first time in the five-year history of this event, Maggie Peterson Mancuso (Charlene Darling on the show) will participate in a question-and-answer session from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday at the Royal Theater. This would top my list of must-see activities as I have had the pleasure of talking to her many times over the years. She has so many stories about her time on the show. I even enjoyed hearing personal moments when she drove by her neighbor Andy Griffith back in the day who would be out washing his car in the driveway.
As is the case every year, the festival offers a couple of events that cost an extra fee and require a ticket.
- Meet & Greet Dinner - The most popular ticketed event each year kicks off the festival and occurs the night before all the main activities begin. The annual Meet & Greet on Friday night allows ticket holders to mingle and dine with all the Mayberry dignitaries at the Hendricks County 4-H Fairgrounds & Conference Complex in Danville. Catered by the Mayberry Cafe, participants can get autographs, ask questions and start their weekend with a lot of laughs. At $25 a ticket, it also is a bargain. You can purchase tickets by clicking here.
- Ronnie Schell: A Tribute to Jim Nabors - Schell, who appeared on two episodes of The Andy Griffith Show, remains more known for his role on a spin-off show, Gomer Pyle: USMC, where he starred opposite Jim Nabors. He will share his memories working closely with Nabors at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Crawley Business Center above the Visit Hendricks County offices on the northeast side of the square. Tickets are $10 for the show and can be purchased here.
You can find a complete schedule of activites and more information for the 2018 Mayberry in the Midwest festival here. For more things to do in Hendricks County while you are here for the weekend, go to the Visit Hendricks County website.