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Quick Fact

Every Saturday, the Historic Earle Theatre hosts the WPAQ Merry-Go-Round, the second longest continuously running  live radio programs in the nation. The show features some of the best traditional music in the Blue Ridge.

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The Earle Theatre was built in 1937 by Earl Q. Benbow and Percy A. Boone who also owned the Grand Theater across the street. The theatre gained considerable national attention when it was selected to present Shirley Temple’s film Just Around the Corner the same year. On March 22, 1940, the Earle hosted one of the southern premieres of Gone With the Wind. On May 30, 1957, a premiere of A Face in the Crowd, Andy Griffith’s first movie, was featured at the Earle following a citywide “Andy Day” including a parade.

The Historic Earle Theatre is the home of the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall that is open seven days a week. The Hall exists to preserve, promote, and protect Surry County’s old-time music tradition. This is accomplished with exhibits, portraits of Surry County old-time music icons, audio guided tours, lessons, workshops, and a documentary that is played continuously daily. The exhibit highlights Surry County old-time music icon, Tommy Jarrell.

WPAQ Merry-Go-Round at the Earle

The weekly WPAQ Merry-Go-Round, second only to the Grand Ole Opry as the longest continuously running live radio broadcast in the nation, is hosted each Saturday year-round at 11:00 a.m. at the Earle. The show was created by Ralph Epperson on WPAQ 740 AM as a spotlight to promote area musicians. Many who performed on the WPAQ Merry-Go-Round have gone on to become traditional music icons- Tommy Jarrell, Benton Flippen, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, and Da Costa Woltz to name a few.

About Mount Airy

Mount Airy is home to the world’s largest open-face granite quarry, operated by the North Carolina Granite Corporation. The granite mined from the quarry was used to build the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. and the Wright Brothers Monument in Kitty Hawk, as well as many other structures, monuments, and buildings all over the world.

Famous and notable individuals from this area include Andy Griffith; old-time musician Tommy Jarrell; Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese Twins; major league baseball players Chubby Dean, Ron Blackburn, and Ben Callahan; country music singer and songwriter Donna Fargo, actress Anna Wood, television producer Bill Hayes, and HGTV founder Ken Lowe. Visit the Andy Griffith Museum, and celebrate this beloved television series in September at Mayberry Days in Mount Airy.

Learn more

The Earle Theatre hosts many opportunities to learn about, listen to, or join in the musical traditions of the region:

  • Jams, Thursdays at 7:00 pm. Folks come to play, to sing, to dance, and to listen to the music that binds them: old-time, bluegrass, country, blues, gospel, and folk. Group tours (reservations recommended 336.786.7998) and visitors are always welcome.
  • Youth Guitar and Fiddle Lessons. Weekly on Thursdays. 5:30 p.m. Fiddle, 6:15 p.m. Guitar. No reservations necessary – instruments available. Classes are followed by a free family friendly jam session at 7:00 p.m. These lessons are funded in part by a grant from the Folklife divisions of the North Carolina Arts Council. The instructor is Mount Airy’s own award-winning Jim Vipperman. For more information on these programs or to schedule a lesson, please call Jim at 336-320-2877 or the Surry Arts Council at 336-786-7998.
  • Blue Ridge and Beyond Series. Nationally known touring artists come to Mount Airy to perform in the Blue Ridge and Beyond Series, including Rhonda Vincent, Bill Anderson, Balsam Range and others..
  • Voice of the Blue Ridge. Select Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Hosted by  Travis Frye and Blue Mountain with special guests.Tickets are $7 or season passes are available. Children 12 and under are free. Get the full line up of musical guests and more details here.  Scroll down that same page to check out David Holt’s video about Voice of the Blue Ridge.
  • Old-Time Dance. Line up a Flat-Foot and/or Two-Step class for your group with award winning dancer and musician, Marsha Todd. Call 336-86-7998 or email tours@surryarts.org.
  • Breaking Up Christmas Dance. “Breaking Up Christmas” is an old-time dance tune that takes its name from dance parties in the area, where old-timers used to “break up” Christmas nightly. The times have changed, but the music, the spirit, and the fun have never stopped! Hear Slate Mountain Ramblers and the Buckstankle Boys play the tunes that were played and enjoyed by many of the old-time icons featured in the Old-Time Music Heritage Hall at the Historic Earle Theatre.

Other Attractions and Festivals in Mount Airy

  • Tommy Jarrell Celebration. Celebrating the life and music of Thomas Jefferson Jarrell, Tommy Jarrell, this event occurs annually on the last weekend in February. View a video of Jarrell here.
  • Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention. Established in 1972, this exciting event celebrating bluegrass and old-time music features accomplished musicians from around the world. The Mount Airy Fiddlers Convention occurs annually on the first full weekend in June.
  • Blackmon Amphitheatre. Bands play here throughout the summer, encouraging locals and visitors alike to relax, dance and enjoy bluegrass, beach music, and traditional tunes in a bucolic outdoor setting. Wine and food are available.
  • Andy Griffith Museum. Andy Griffith, popular actor, comedian, and musician, hails from Mount Airy. The Andy Griffith Show actors and producers were influenced by the characters and traditions of Andy’s Mount Airy hometown for material, including local music traditions. The Andy Griffith Museum showcases the multifaceted career of Andy Griffith in America’s favorite hometown, Mayberry.
  • Mayberry Days. An annual festival celebrating the anniversary date of The Andy Griffith Show, draws fans from around the world and showcases traditional mountain music and musicians. Mayberry Days takes place on the last full weekend in September every year.
  • Andy Griffith Museum. Andy Griffith, popular actor, comedian, and musician, hails from Mount Airy. The Andy Griffith Show actors and producers were influenced by the characters and traditions of Andy’s Mount Airy hometown for material, including local music traditions. The Andy Griffith Museum showcases the multifaceted career of Andy Griffith in America’s favorite hometown, Mayberry.

BRNHA-PMSshieldtinyThe Blue Ridge Heritage Trail is a program of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership.

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More Information

Mount Airy Visitors Center and Chamber of Commerce
200 N. Main Street
Mount Airy, NC 27030
336-786-6116
www.visitmayberry.com

Surry County Arts Council
336-786-7998
www.surryarts.org

The Earle Theatre
336-786-2222
www.theearle.org