From time to time in this space, I remember the memorable year I spent working as a newspaper reporter in Mount Airy, N.C., often walking out the front door of my bureau office to bus loads of tourists, celebrating native Andy Griffith and all things Mayberry.
Griffith grew up in Mount Airy before striking it big in Hollywood, playing leading roles in movies and television, including shows such as "The Andy Griffith Show" and "Matlock." His hometown has become quite the tourist destination with Mayberry Days festival in September and plenty of reminders of Mayberry all year.
Now, there's even more for tourists to see thanks to a $500,000 renovation to the Andy Griffith Museum, which originally opened in 2009. The revamped visitor experience takes guests on a stroll through various stages of Griffith's life, according to a press release. Exhibits, built in the form of storefronts, memorialize a particular aspect of Griffith's career. Each exhibit features items from a trove of more than 1,000 pieces of memorabilia collected by the late Emmett Forrest, a life-long friend of Griffith's and museum founder.
The museum closed for the project on April 7 and reopened to the public on June 29.
“The concept is strolling through Mayberry and various phases of Andy's life,” said Tanya Jones of the Surry Arts Council in the release. “ ... Many people don't realize the depth of his career – he was a comedian, Grammy-winning musician, Broadway actor, and a movie star from the 1950s until just prior to his death in 2012.”
The museum focuses on Griffith's entire life, but there is plenty of memorabilia on display from "The Andy Griffith Show." They include Andy's sheriff shirt, the gavel and eagle from his desk, both sets of jail cell keys, Barney Fife's salt-and-pepper suit worn on dates with Thelma Lou, the suit of town drunk Otis and Goober Pyle's bronzed beanie. The newest item on display is a neatly pressed white suit worn by Griffith in Brad Paisley's “Waitin’ on a Woman” video in 2008.
“Our goal is to preserve Andy's legacy with a quality experience and this renovation achieves that,” Jones said in the press release. “Emmett would love this. This exceeds his dream, no question.”
Mount Airy, just north of Winston-Salem, is just over two hours from Raleigh. If you go, be sure to pick yourself up a sonker.
The museum is at 218 Rockford St., Mount Airy. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for kids ages 12 and under.