Mayberry in the Midwest and Some Special Guests
DANVILLE, Ind.--You can go to Mayberry for three days this year, and you don't have to leave Indiana. Mayberry in the Midwest is happening through Sunday in Danville in the area around the Mayberry Cafe'.
Duke and Charlene
For the first time, Ronnie Schell, who played Cpl. Duke Slater, Gomer Pyles best buddy at Camp Henderson on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., will perform two shows at the festival. Schell was a stand-up comedian before the Gomer Pyle series, and has been working steadily as a stand-up in Vegas ever since.
Schell said that, though this is his first time at the Indiana festival, he has also played for fans in Andy Griffith's hometown of Mt. Airy, North Carolina.
"I emceed and did a 35 minute special, which my son documented, called Mayberry Days," said Schell. He said the special included others from the Andy Griffith Show who were still alive. Schell, who was friends with Don Rickles, said he was once known as the "slowest-rising young comedian". He added that at 85, he's now known as the oldest rising comedian.
Maggie Peterson-Mancuso, who played Charlene Darling on the Andy Griffith Show, will be making her fourth appearance at the festival.
"Everybody kind of walks around and takes your picture and there's games and a pickle-eating contest," she said, referring to the Griffith Show episode where Aunt Bea's pickles were referred to as "kerosene cucumbers".
"That's a lot of peoples' favorite episode," she said.
"We have a parade. We're gonna have a basketball game. Ronnie's gonna do two shows," said Mancuso.
"I will be doing the family-type show because I do the Vegas show a little differently. So I've cut out all the Vegas-type material. So I'll be on for two minutes," Schell joked.
Schell said that even though he and Jim Nabors worked on Gomer Pyle and Mancuso was on the Andy Griffith Show (only for six episodes as Charlene Darling), they all became good friends, eating breakfast together and attending the same events in Hollywood.
Mancuso added that working on the Andy Griffith Show was special and that Griffith was a generous man, who allowed the Dillards, who played the Darlings, to bring their own compositions to the show. Mancuso sings "There is a Time" on one episode of the show. Griffith whistles the tune in another episode.
Giffith's daughter Dixie, making her second appearance at the festival, said Griffith loved music.
"There were musical instruments all over the house, everywhere," said Griffith.
Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, and all of the main characters from the original Andy Griffith Show have passed away. But fans come to Indiana every year to celebrate the show and the Mayberry universe.
PHOTO: Chris Davis/Emmis Ronnie Schell and Maggie Peterson-Mancuso