photograph by Adam Mowery

Visitors come from all over the world looking for Mayberry. In a quaint downtown flanked by the Sauratown and Blue Ridge mountains, they find it. Well, sort of. While many come to Mount Airy to pay homage to hometown hero Andy Griffith, they soon find out that there’s plenty to love in the real-life town, too. A former stagecoach stop along the Ararat River, Mount Airy found its fortune when mining took off at the nearby granite quarry in 1889. Later, local music legends like Tommy Jarrell and Benton Flippen helped bring attention to a beloved regional sound, and the town became a bluegrass and old-time music hot spot. Today, one of the nation’s longest-running radio shows still plays old-time and bluegrass music from the historic Earle Theatre. In October, the Autumn Leaves Festival brings thousands of visitors to Main Street to celebrate the area’s rich music traditions — plus crafts, art, and delicious food. People often come searching for a warm, familiar time that feels lost and long ago, but in Mount Airy, they find that it isn’t so lost after all.


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Katie Schanze is the assistant editor and digital editor of Our State.