3rd Annual Mayberry Comes to Graysville

It was probably the shortest parade I've ever attended, including a St. Patrick's Day celebration in Mississippi that made its wat 'round the block three times so the lone marching band could finish its song. No, this one was shorter, and didn't have a marching band to accommodate, and therefore couldn't justify a repeat of the quarter-mile route.

Mayberry comes to Graysville is a big event in this small, central-Alabama town, and its residents lined the street, clustering in spots of storefront-awning shade to escape the muggy heat.

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Entertaining the gawkers were several Andy Griffith Show impersonators, including Gomer, Opie and a convincing Barney Fife who issued autographs instead of citations.

Jackie Joseph, an actual "Andy Griffith Show" alum, brought a dose of authenticity as the parade's grand marshal. Hard core fans know her as Romeena Ankrum from "My Fair Ernest T. Bass," the first episode of 1964. We had to look it up.

Andy wasn't in attendance, but four replica Ford Galaxie squad cars were there, a red bubble on the top of each, gold Mayberry Sheriff stars on the doors. At the opposite end of the parade was a handful of tastefully restored street rods and a retired Chattanooga Fire Department truck, complete with articulated ladder.

But the squad cars were the star of Graysville's annual celebration. At the route's end, the four black-and-whites were to compete in the Squad Car Nationals. Imagine autocross with Mayberry-themed obstacles, like stopping to pick up a jar of pickles for Aunt Bee's Sunday lunch.

It wasn't a day at the Pebble Beach Concours or even a cruise on Woodward, but for a few hours, we felt as if we had stepped into Andy Griffith's bucolic, TV world, a little surprised to find everything in color. We were the only strangers but the residents of Graysville didn't seem to mind us crashing their party. The town's actual sheriff rescued keys we'd locked in the car, the Methodist church was giving away(!) bottled water and there was free ice cream at the community center.

We only went to see some nicely-restored antiques and giggle some at the kitsch of replica antique police cars. We did, but also were reminded of what small town life is like and how big a person's extended family can be.

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