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Just How Influential is Mount Airy's Autumn Leaves Festival?

Updated: Apr 19

The Autumn Leaves Festival is located in Downtown Mount Airy, NC. Each year, the festival takes place in the middle of October, the weekend of the 14th through the 16th. Friday and Saturday, the festival started at 9 am and ended that evening at 9 pm. Then, on the last day of the festival, it ran from 12 pm to 6 pm. To get into the festival, it is free admission, and though there are paid parking options, free parking is available around the area of the festival. It is also important to note that there are no pets or weapons allowed when entering the festival. The Autumn Leaves Festival is known to be one of North Carolina’s longest running and most successful events. This year was the 56th year that the festival would be taking place, and over the years the festival has been consistently recognized as a Top 20 Events in the southeast by the Southeast Tourism Society.

This type of festival is not just for those who live nearby; this is the type of festival that people travel long and far for. Like mentioned before, Lauren and I were able to go to the Sonker Trail before the area was packed to its peak. The first place that we visited did not even have any available for us to try because they were preparing for the festival; they allocated all of their pies to this event and had none in the shop. Miss Angel had an advantage because of how dependent she is on her ingredients due to owning her own farm and orchard that produced fresh fruits and ingredients for her baked goods. Since the festival was the next day and we were not able to try a pie at the first shop we visited, we began to second guess if coming the day before such a big festival was the best time to try these Sonkers. Luckily, Miss Angel had no issue in getting us a pie. She even mentioned that her employees planned on making over 1,500 pies for the event because it was such a big event; and, still, she made time for her customers. An event like this was able to bring the town together, even more so because it is where the fictional city “Mayberry” from the Andy Griffith show is located. While we were there, a lot of the shops had the “Mayberry” gear out and ready for all of the people that would want to purchase it. Comfy clothing for weather was available in all colors in many of the different shops that were in the area. The Autumn Leaves Festival has so much to offer including arts and crafts including pottery, painting, textiles, and jewelry; “food for the soul” including ham, biscuits, collard greens, cornbread, and barbecue; and music including old-time, bluegrass, and gospel.

While the festival actually started back in 1966 as a closing celebration for tobacco and apple harvesting seasons, today it is a celebration for the beautiful Fall season and the Southern delicacy that makes this town so well-known. This event brings people in the community together and allows for the shop in the area business to prosper. Most of those who make food for the event call it “Hell Weekend”, but it is much more than that to the residents of Mount Airy; it is a never-ending tradition.

--Bria Harmon



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