If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know by now that I end up behind jail bars several times a year. Two years ago, it wasn’t just me… but everybody in our pub crawl group. The “authorities” put us women in one cell and the men in another. It certainly wasn’t a pleasant place to be. Good thing it was, as usual, just pretend. My jail time was part of the Mayberry After Dark event during the Mayberry in the Midwest Festival in Danville, Indiana.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated for the 2018 event.
What is Mayberry in the Midwest?
Every fan of The Andy Griffith Show knows Mayberry. It’s that small, charming town filled with friendly, but quirky people. The bumbling deputy, the naïve gas station attendant, and the level-headed sheriff who solves everyone’s problems take you back to simpler times.
Danville seems much like Mayberry, except the people aren’t quirky—just friendly. Go to Danville on a summer Saturday, and you’ll find townsfolk gathered at the farmer’s market around the town square. The Hendricks County courthouse stars at the center of the square. Surrounding blocks are filled with small shops, the Royal Theater, and a restaurant called the Mayberry Café.
Brad and Christine Born named their restaurant the Mayberry Cafe because the town so reminded them of Mayberry. The Café is filled with memorabilia from The Andy Griffith Show and plays the show on televisions throughout the restaurant.
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Playing off the Mayberry Café’s theme, the Mayberry in the Midwest Festival was born in 2014 and was an immediate hit. The three-day festival’s fun, mostly family-friendly events star The Andy Griffith Show tribute artists, as well as celebrities from the show. Maggie Peterson, who played the character Charlene Darling, and Dixie Griffith, Andy Griffith’s real-life daughter were festival guests in 2016.
Mayberry in the Midwest Events
The Mayberry in the Midwest Festival weekend kicks off on Friday evening with a Meet-and-Greet and continues through the weekend. Saturday is the biggest event day with a parade, celebrity basketball game and the Mayberry After Dark pub crawl and ghost walk.
I knew we were in for a good time at the Meet-and-Greet when Ernest T. Bass (played by Phil Fox) greeted us at the door.
The Meet-and-Greet included a buffet dinner catered by the Mayberry Café. Not surprisingly, the buffet included fried chicken just like Aunt Bea made. Tribute artists playing The Andy Griffith Show characters entertained throughout the evening. David Browning, who plays Barney Fife, is a favorite. He has Barney pegged perfectly, right down to his “You’re a nut!” exclamation.
I chatted briefly with the delightful Dixie Griffith, Andy Griffith’s daughter. She told me I must visit Mount Airy sometime, that I would love it. Andy Griffith grew up in Mount Airy. The Andy Griffith Show was based on the town. Mount Airy still likens itself to Mayberry.
Spectators packed the town square early for the Saturday Mayberry Parade. Equestrian teams, school bands and floats were punctuated with Sheriff Taylor car look-alikes, celebrities and tribute artists.
Vendors and Entertainment
Following the parade we checked out the vendor booths. Vendors were much like most festivals, selling everything from handmade crafts to carnival-type foods. I loved the old-fashioned milkman outfit the Oberweis Dairy vendor was wearing—a perfect fit for Mayberry.
We watched the Miss Mayberry contest on the entertainment stage and stayed for hilarious comedy starring Barney Fife, Floyd the barber, Gomer Pyle and other Mayberry tribute artists. Other entertainment on stage over the weekend included bluegrass music and a pickle eating contest.
Celebrity Basketball Game
The Celebrity Basketball Game was a festival highlight—and I hate that I missed it. We had gotten so wrapped up enjoying pie at the local Bread Basket Café that both my husband and I forgot about the game. We went back to our accommodations at the Marmalade Sky Bed and Breakfast for a quick nap. I awoke with a start when I remembered we were supposed to be at the game. It was too late to catch any of it. I heard later that the game was hysterical, and Barney Fife’s costume was a real hoot.
Mayberry After Dark
My favorite event of the weekend was Mayberry After Dark. We checked in to the event in front of the Royal Theater and picked up our very cool glasses trimmed with flashing LED lights. The glasses made quite a fashion statement.
We split into two groups of about twenty each. Our group leader led us to a Pizza Paradise and then to Diesel’s Sports Grille for adult beverages. Along our walk, we stopped near old “haunted” buildings. Our leader told outrageous fictitious stories about the ghosts in these buildings. At one building, she pointed to the window where the ghost is often seen.
Our next stop? The clinker. Our leader took us in through a side door, down a few steps into a dirt-floor basement. That basement was creepier than any of the ghost stories we’d heard during the night.
Back up a few stairs we were put in jail cells. The jail is now the Hendircks County Historical Museum. It’s hard to believe it was actually used as a jail until 1974. The sheriff’s house was attached to the jail. The sheriff’s wife cooked meals for the prisoners and passed the food through a window to the warden to distribute to the prisoners.
In The Andy Griffith Show, Aunt Bea used to cook meals for the prisoners. But even their house wasn’t attached to the jail.
Mayberry After Dark ended with a comedy show at the Royal Theater. The show starred Phil Fox, a.k.a. Ernest T. Bass, who kept us in stitches the rest of the evening.
If you go to the Mayberry in the Midwest Festival
There are more events throughout the Mayberry in the Midwest Festival. An Opie look-alike contest, a pancake breakfast, and lawn mower races all add to the fun.
2018 special guests
Special guests include Maggie Mancuso (Charlene Darling), Dixie Griffith (Andy Griffthi’s daughter), Ronnie Schell (Duke Slater, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.), George Lindsey Jr. (son of George Lindsey who played Goober), Margaret Kerry (Bess Muggins and Helen Scobey) and tribute artists.
The 2018 Mayberry in the Midwest Festival is scheduled for May 18-20. Danville, Indiana is located approximately 20 miles west of Indianapolis. Check the Visit Hendricks County website for details.
Accommodations: Check room rates in and near Danville, Indiana
Disclosures: Visit Hendricks County hosted our visit to the Mayberry in the Midwest festival. However, all opinions in this article are my own.
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