In just a few short weeks, the town of Westminster, nestled neatly into the upper left-hand corner of the state, will come alive with Mayberry. Oconee County, where Westminster is located, is called the Golden Corner of the State. Although I love living on the coast of SC, I spent the first four years of my life as a professional out of college in this wonderful place.
Clemson University is just a few miles away, as is the town of Seneca, Walhalla, Oakway and West Union. I was privileged to call Westminster my home for four years. I brought my new bride to our first home there and then a couple of years later, my first child.
The mountains in the background touch the sky just at the county line before heading into Georgia. There are rivers, ponds and lakes all around. The weather is mild most of the time, but can draw a little snow in winter. There are miles of rolling hills along the country roads that make you feel right at home. Apples are a big crop up that way, and a festival is held yearly to celebrate the harvest.
The trees turn colors in the fall, just like they’re supposed to, and create a magnificently painted palette in the tree lines. The wildlife is abundant, the fishing great, and the recreation relaxing. But the things I’ve already mentioned aren’t the real treasures in this place…it the people.
Andy once said to the visiting Manicurist that “nature had been real, real good” to her. Continuing on, he said that he “didn’t remember when he’d seen nature put so much time into one individual.” I think you’ll find and nature has smiled on this place.
The people here are down-home, genuine and accepting of everyone. They go about life at a pace that might seem a little slower than what most are used to, but they take advantage of that because they have a genuineness about them that is honest and sincere. When they speak to you, and ask you “How do you do?”…they really want to know. When they ask, “Can I help you?” …they really want to help. When they introduce themselves to you, they really want to get to know you. When these folks see you again, they remember your name.
On May 2-3, 2014, when Mayberry Comes Back to Westminster, it is a perfect arrangement of spirit and soul. Not the kind of arrangement that Briscoe Darling made for his granddaughter Andelina and Opie, but the kind that when you see it, you just know it’s right. It’s a town that values its heritage, and embraces those who come here, to live or just to visit a while.
My first job was teaching in at Westminster high School, where I was an assistant football coach and the Head basketball coach from 1979-1983…the “Final Four” years of the school before it merged with Oakway to create West-Oak High School. I made lifelong friends there, and still keep up with many of them today. As for the ones I don’t really keep in touch with, they’re still there, and when we meet during my visits there, and especially during the Mayberry Comes Back to Westminster Events, we still know one another’s names, we still greet one another as though we were family, and that hug and handshake are just as warm and heartfelt as they were all those years ago.
If you haven’t been to any Mayberry Events, well…this is a great one to attend. Tom Rusk, the face behind the event is a Mayberry Fan extraordinaire, as you will see when he drives his replica Squad Car around town. The event is sponsored by some wonderful area businesses, so make sure to patronize them and the town shop keepers as well. The event is well organized; the street vendors are always helpful, the folks that run the shops and restaurants in town are really happy to see you. The local papers and media outlets are out in force. The man who does a lot of the emcee work, Kris Butts, from WGOG, is an enthusiastic Mayberry Fan himself. There are look-a-like contests, pickle eatin’ contests, pies and pageants. The entertainment is high quality, the Tribute Artists are funny, the parades are festive, and the original characters from the show that are able to attend are wonderful human beings. No doubt about it, you’ll come away feeling much better than when you first arrived. Information on the Mayberry Comes to Westminster Event can be found at http://westminstersc.com/mayberry/
Hope to see you there. Have a Mayberry Day.