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Tuesday
Oct022012

Haunted Houses 

They literally come to town like ghosts in the night. The lines are quite long and it is ironic because the human condition loathes fear, yet here we are paying for it. With each inch forward we boast of our lack of fear, knowing that our knees are shaking and our words are mere bravado to combat the reality of our emotions. Even though the real world is beyond frightening, we are gluttons for punishment.

We need to know that our dwindling 401K’s and bankrupt home values are not the real fright. Ghosts and goblins await, the real threats to our livelihood. Even MJ’s “Thriller” video could not be viewed without a nightlife. Yet here we are, face to face with the supernatural, volunteering ourselves to a future as surreal as the ditsy blonde cheerleader in a Tobe Hooper film school offering.

We Americans love the haunted attraction.

The venue changes every year but the players remain the same. Ghosts, goblins, monsters and demons seem to follow us from house to house, if you have the cash. The theme might be a prison, a crime scene, an asylum or the morgue; as long as the lights strobe and the fog machine works, we are in a state of manufactured horror. With a concession stand. From this date until after Halloween, we treat ourselves to the macabre; floating heads, detached souls, creepy children and old-timey prophecies. For $5-$40, we lose ourselves to an underworld that seems to have never discovered electricity or the celestial art of “passing over” and leaving this realm behind.

It goes back to 1915, ironic since the original purveyors of synthetic fright would theoretically be haunting us for real now. Imagine that, a haunted house within a haunted house. But it was in the 60’s and 70’s that the Jaycees made the haunted house a moneymaker akin only to Girl Scout cookies. Sprouting up in major Midwestern locales as Louisville and Cincinnati, the holler-for-dollar ordeal has grown into a national tradition. What once began as a scare-fest in Lombard, Illinois, (the longest running haunted attraction in America) has morphed into an industry. Organizers have made a living out of the month long affair, recruiting Hollywood style CGI, attracting committed actors and writing a virtual screenplay for the events that follow. For these promoters, eleven out of twelve months of the year are committed to “the show”.

Of course, there exists “real “haunted houses. One could travel to the upstate New York site that inspired “The Amityville Horror”. One could make a pilgramige to the home of Lizzie Borden, or travel to Bobby Mackey’s haunted honky-tonk in Wilder, Kentucky. But as TV ghost hunters and common sense reveal, no sightings of ghosts occur in these places (aside from the bills in your wallet). But attend a haunted house production in the heartland; scares are imminent.

At least the screams in these places are fun. Six months after the last show, the IRS comes calling. That is a fear we do not pay to see, but pay for greatly regardless.

Oh,how we long for the Bride of Frankenstein.

Thursday
Sep272012

Prasco Park 

Regardless of which side of the aisle a person stands concerning medical care, wellness and good health are universal necessities. And falling ill can be an expense that debilitates one’s financial health as well. Prasco has been a company set on healing bodies and wallets since the introduction of Authorized Generics in 2004. Authorized Generics (high quality pharmaceuticals at a generic price) have been saving lives and bank accounts for millions, and Prasco is the industry leader in this movement. And now, though already armed with an arsenal of good karma, Prasco is bringing its philanthropic culture to another institution-the baseball diamond.

Cincinnati is home to the first professional baseball team so it makes sense that Prasco’s homage to the great American past-time takes place in the Cincinnati area. Prasco Park is a state of the art baseball stadium with a golden era aesthetic to it. One can imagine Babe Ruth swatting bombs or Willie Mays shagging flies inside the pristinely clean brick domicile. Of course the players and fans of those days never enjoyed the meticulous upkeep that goes into maintaining the picturesque field of dreams. Nestled against Mother Nature’s finest backdrop, the stadium boasts 550 permanent chair-back seats, poured concrete dugouts, a clubhouse, press box and a sound system that is typically only found in newer Major League venues. The private field is home to the Cincinnati Spikes, a professional team, and with its dimensions has served as host to many baseball events, from youth leagues to collegiate. And in an act that falls in line with the values of its parent company, admission and parking is usually free at Prasco Park.

A dose of Americana at its finest? Perhaps the greatest medicine of all.

Monday
Sep242012

NFL Referees & The Strike 

The NFL referees are on strike ($149k median for part time work is an insult, according to them. It’s a hard knock life). Depending on your team’s win/loss record, the replacement zebras are either the worst thing since leather seats in a convertible in August, or the best thing since Rocky Balboa knocked out Drago and single handedly ended communism in Rocky IV. But aren’t all refs created equal? The road to becoming a national punching bag is quite unpaved and curvy. These men must be masochists.

It goes far beyond memorizing a playbook and learning how to not swallow a whistle. It even goes beyond wearing a striped shirt. First, one must have a high tolerance for abuse (perhaps working as a dinner hour telemarketer might help). Then, one must have a fanatic football obsession, yet be willing to wash away any team allegiance. After that, somehow acquire a job that allows moonlighting and thousands of hours of devotion, and the dream begins- at the junior high level.

The fifteen dollar paydays are not exactly fruitful, but an aspiring zebra only needs to toil here for around five years before the next big break-high school. No one wants to relive high school, excluding Al Bundy, but elite referees have no choice. No biggie; a decade or so of absolute excellence MIGHT punch a ticket to the college gridiron, though forget about conferences like the Big 10 or SEC; junior college and Division II is where the road leads, AA ball when compared to baseball. Should the lucky disciplinarian find his way amongst the elite in the major conferences, this is where the scouting begins. Not unlike the helmeted players he governs, referees are subject to a litany of tests-psychological, physical, intellectual; throw in a credit check and suddenly the rigors to becoming an NFL ref are akin to becoming a Secret Service agent. After all of this, NFL referee school calls-imagine being a surgeon for twenty years and then being told to go back to med school.

Of course, being an NFL is quite like success in NYC. They say if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. And a lifetime of jeers, death threats and debris thrown at them gives an NFL ref thick skin (think rhinocerus). Essentially, nothing they will ever face in life will be as harrowing as their time on the sidelines. Just ask their understudies. After two weeks of replacements, the substitutes have forgotten the names of the teams they were refereeing, made a barrage of questionable calls and have had a particularly troubling incident ( a replacement ref telling a running back to do better because he was on the ref’s fantasy team). One thing is clear: the game needs the real refs back in a hurry. Afterall, they are the best men for the job, a job they earned, a job that requires a few loose screws. Because in a way they are patriots, cogs in a time honored American machine-hating the referee.

Come to think of it, maybe six figures is not enough. Give these guys a raise.

Monday
Sep172012

Tilt-A-Whirl

Sellner's Tilt-A-Whirl Ride Circa 1940's

It’s almost an idiom. The Tilt-A-Whirl – nearly synonymous with carnivals, festivals, fairs of various ilk and sort, and all the things that go with those things. The carnies, perhaps, unshaven and swarthy, in stained T-shirts, taking tickets as riders ascend the diamond plate metal stairs to this collapsible and portable realm dully replacing the dog chain gate latch, and fire up the motor from a makeshift stool in a metal crows nest along the precarious edge of the device. They might smoke a cigarette, probably unfiltered, denoting the duration of one ride. The motor whines, and a faint smell of elevator grease and ozone wafts from below the metal skirt, as the machine clatters to life. The segmented slabs of sheet metal, designed for portability, and countess installations and removals for travelling fairs and innumerable midways throughout the land buck and slam in thunderous bursts like interlocked shields in a Roman Legion. The clam shaped cars, swivel and roar, as the plane of the ride travels in an undulating sine wave. Each car, with the painted face of a morally ambivalent clown on the back, stares at passengers. Depending on contents of stomachs, or stages of budding romances, that clown face can be a supremely joyous or unconscionably horrifying observation.

It’s part of America – this Tilt-A-Whirl. Some Tilt-A-Whirls have been in continuous use for decades. Some stationary. Some not. Like many pieces of carnival equipment, the Tilt-A-Whirl has its origins at the hands of a Minnesota handyman. Woodworker Herbert Sellner tinkered with the idea in his home, initially uncovering the concept by placing a chair on top of his kitchen table, and rocking the resulting plane back and forth with his son in the seat. The ride evolved from crude prototypes of wood, and gas powered engines, to the clamorously familiar metal centrifuge known today. Seven independent electric motors power the seven cars providing a symphony of that familiar groan.

In 2011, Texas based Larsen International, Incorporated, purchased the rights to Tilt-A-Whirl, and still produces the machines. Custom versions can be bought with various models of cars ranging from kettles and tea-cups to dinosaurs or virtually any incarnation of sculpture conceivable in fiberglass, and with certain use specifications such as stationary or mobile. Of course, the familiar clam shaped bench with clown on the back remains standard. New models range from 300k on up, but used ones can be struck for fractions of that. Could be a raucous and unique edition to a backyard menagerie for the painfully wealthy, or a potentially lucrative start-up business opportunity (carnies not included).

Friday
Aug242012

High School Football 

As late summer slowly relinquishes her cicada droned grip to early autumn, pockets of the nation are whipped into a Friday night frenzy. High school football - the vanguard of the football season - preceding college and professional by one and two weeks respectively - has a somewhat proprietary lock on Fridays. And the feeling is electric.

Braces of halogen lamps hum, perched atop creosote telephone poles, with swirling maelstroms of insects billowing and dancing in their hot glare. Below, the scene is illuminated in a sublime glow. The 11 on 11 matchup, helmets and uniforms in bold colors - as schools: tethered to pride, pep rallies, homecoming alumni, marching bands, academic prowess, and fight songs battle it out on the gridiron. Civic and community identity and pride is on display, as citizens - folks, really - come out and fill the bleachers. The team, and sense of belonging to that team: tangible and accessible.

A voice, over the loudspeaker, tin sounding in shrill, nasal echoes, announces play by play stats. Naming players as themselves. “Henderson on the tackle,” it might squawk. Or, “Zavelli for a six yard gain.” These players are real. They might be a son, or a friend, or a neighbor. They are all students.

Swarms of teens gather on the “hill” or some grassy area - a knoll, perhaps - to socialize and mingle, while younger children dart and dash in crude, and extemporaneous games of keep-away (inspired, no doubt, by the action on the field). A hint of popcorn lingers in the air from the concession area outward. Parents of players clonk cowbells, and crazed student sections with chest paint and megaphones and vuvuzelas chant war cries in near tribal tongues and posture to the opposing side. These: all part of the experience.

Websites such as MaxPreps and Rivals.com, and nationally scaled rankings from the likes of USA Today have amped up the intensity, and ratcheted up the attention given to these very local contests. In recent years, highly publicized match ups between state or regional powerhouses have landed spots on ESPN, and spawned events such as the Kirk Herbstreit Series. These classics pit unlikely foes from far flung corners of the nation - defying budgetary constraints normally associated with high school sports. Films such as Friday Night Lights, All the Right Moves, and Dazed and Confused further anthologize and mythologize the mystique of high school football.

But maybe all of those things are too much. The allure of high school football remains in that pool of talent, untainted, burgeoning with potential - rallying around a very community, and very grassroots entity. The high school football team.

Wednesday
Aug222012

The Fierce Five

This past month we witnessed a cultural phenomenon. Five young girls of varying heritage and background have taken the world by storm, the flashing bulbs from the moment-chasers in London their send off into stardom. In the weeks that have followed, these five girls have made the late night television rounds, become internet sensations and have inspired millions, the focus of the public eye.

No, this is not an archived story. You are not reading this on a dial-up. It is not 1995 and we are not talking about The Spice Girls.

The Fierce Five are a collective Sporty Spice, though. On the heels of glamorized Olympics prior, this was a squad that was largely unheard of going into the 2012 games. That label quickly changed. The gold medal winning team-Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman, Jordyn Weiber, Kyla Ross and McKayla Maroney-have written their own chapter in gymnastics’ history books, shoulder to shoulder with names such as Retton and Moceanu. And in the process they have become rock stars. A look:

Gabby Douglas, the artistic and graceful gift of the mat perhaps best known as “The Flying Squirrel”, has emerged as America’s Sweetheart. The overall gold champion, she also has become the first African-American to claim such an honor. She is also the first American to win both the individual all-around and team competition.

Kyla Ross, the youngest of the ladies ( “Baby Spice”?) yet an old soul at the games, competing with the grace and poise of veterans many years her senior. Her strong scores in both the bar and the beam in the team final helped position the squad to claim their best-in-the-world status.

Jordyn Wieber, one of the elite all-arounders on the planet. Winner of the 2011 World Title and Senior National champion (twice), Wieber was a crucial component to The Fierce Five’s claim as the top squad on Earth, assisting in bringing home the team gold for the first time since 1996.

Aly Raisman, the fearless, hard charging tumbling specialist. Raisman placed fourth in the all-around, earning a Bronze on the unforgiving beam and looked magnificently golden thanks to her explosiveness on the floor. Keep an eye for her in 2016.

McKayla Maroney, a vault goddess who has perhaps personified the American quest for perfection more than any other athlete before her. After falling during her run, Maroney was awarded the silver medal, an unattainable dream for many. Now drenching the internet in various life forms, a scowl on her face told her thoughts of the event. And a tagline sensation was born; McKayla is not impressed.

As for the future, it lingers in the air like a Gabby Douglas assault on the clouds. Ranging in age from 15-18, The Fierce Five will still be young guns by the next Olympics, just reaching the voting or drinking age depending upon the fierce one in question. Whatever the ladies decide, their tale was written this summer with a happy ending. They are a microcosm of Olympic competitors of the future; world class athletes with lives dedicated to their craft. Media darlings with an inherent marketability. Role models for a generation.

And best of all, The Fierce Five are ours. And contrary to Miss Maroney’s delightfully jaded perception of excellence- we ARE impressed.

Friday
Aug032012

Monday Night Raw

It was in the mid 80’s that Hulkamania ran wild. For fellas like myself, little more mattered than watching the larger than life strongmen, cartoons really, (which they would later go on to be, along with action figures, ice cream bars,etc) beat up the bad guys. In those days the Saturday morning ire fell upon the cheaters, rule breakers, and of course the dreaded commies (when the Cold War thawed, enemy combatants were replaced by any perceived threat to Uncle Sam-talking to you, Iran). Life was simple then, if not a bit sheepish with the profiling. Right and wrong was a showcase on those early weekend mornings, after roller derby and before The Smurfs. And the heroes usually won, conveniently just as the program was reaching its closing credits. It was real to us.

Whatever happened to the age of innocence and spandex? The case could be made that we grew up and found out it was fake. Our lives were pulled into sports, girls, pop culture. It was time to get real. The (then) WWF was child’s play. Child’s play for the drag racing, spittoon carrying backwoods types.

So what would spur someone in his mid 30’s to attend an episode of WWE Monday Night RAW, the longest running weekly episodic program of our times? Nostalgia? The opportunity to judge others? Investigative reporting to determine why the Vince McMahon traveling carnival is a financial and ratings juggernaut? All of the above, likely. And before I knew it, I was sitting in the nosebleeds at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati. It was episode 1,001. It was a balmy and busy Monday night downtown. It was RAW. It was about to get loud.

We waited outside amongst thousands of fanatics until five minutes before the program aired live on the USA Network. We, being myself and a twenty year closeted fan who was both the only willing participant and someone convinced that he was too old for this, which did little to inspire confidence in my own seasoned eyes. The fanatics in question were a melting pot diverse in age, gender and creed; most carried signs, almost all wore shirts of a favorite grappler. It was like Comic-Con for nerds carrying a mutant testosterone gene, the manliest take on cosplay I have ever witnessed. And we all made a mad dash to our seats so close to the opening bell because the pyro check from earlier had set the building ablaze. I suspected The Iron Sheik, before realizing he must be closer to the next world than the current.

Inside was a four cornered ring, dressed in bright red tones and minute in size in comparison to its television counterpart. TV adds fifteen pounds to humans, 1,500 pounds to padded battle domes. In a flashback that seemed too real, I found myself strolling towards the ring as if I were to live out a boyhood fantasy. Security in these parts is tougher than the tag team champions; I was escorted to my seats, along the clouds.

Foregoing the seven dollar sodas and thirty dollar T-shirts, I watched as little kids cheered their superhero; I frowned as grown adults booed the children on behalf of their chosen star. I wanted to tell them that this was fake, but the reality is that they already knew. It is insulting to even suggest this. Does anyone truly believe that Jack Bauer really saves the world on 24? Suspension of belief is no different here.

Chants broke out into the arena, reminiscent of an English soccer match. They were preset, the continuation of a trend carried over from weeks prior. In the ring, two men appeared to froth at the mouth, anxious to tear into one another. Instead, they simply taunt, an odd choice given the venue. I watch as the scripted boss is hit with a chair; the uniformed police surrounding the ring think not of pressing assault charges. I watch as a villain pins his man, illegally tugging at his tights; I wonder how they have not instituted instant replay. And I watch as the finale happens, tying no ends and leaving a myriad of unresolved questions behind. I think I’ll tune in next week.

I sat next to that twenty year old, who turned into a ten year old halfway through the card. As for myself, I’ll plead the fifth as I wear my new plastic championship belt replica. To my right sat a lawyer; behind me a middle class family of four; a fraternity field trip to the front. A man who must have graduated with my grandfather passed me in the hall. A woman decked in business casual strolled beside us as we attempted to locate the car. As it was on our way in, in our seats and throughout the show, we were tempted with merchandise as we exited. Nice, bright pastel gear that would only be suitable at this very event. Still, I felt that I had to have it. Stockholm Syndrome? No. Sleeper Hold Hysteria, perhaps.

The players change but the game is constant. The themes are the same as in literature, a Shakespearean performance, scripted by wordsmiths and portrayed by hybrid thespian warriors. These days, it is common for the full transition, as guys like The Rock command hefty salaries in Tinseltown, but for most of the performers they are living out a dream that guys like myself swore we one day would. We are parents now, understanding why our own patriarchs would not purchase every doll or trinket when we were the young demographic to the squared circle. They came in a flash, accompanied by production trucks and jumbo jets, stayed for a few hours and hit the road to the next town, nomads of entertainment.

Even a pyrotechnic incident during rehearsal at Cincinnati's U.S. Bank Arena couldn't stop episode 1,001.

But they promised to return in a year, and I will wait in my ridiculous garb until they do, because the magic is back-it never really left, I did. From the days of Bobo Brazil selling out Madison Square Garden to the red and yellow express that was Hulk Hogan, professional wrestling is as strong as it ever was now. A social media maestro that offers fan interaction and accessibility like no other venue of entertainment, it is our embarrassing, loud uncle that we hold dear. It is, for better or worse, an American tradition.

Just don’t try it at home. And don’t tell a soul.

Wednesday
Aug012012

The Lack of Team Handball 

There’s one sport with a noticeable void in the Summer Olympic lineup for the United States. With ratings governing what is shown (via taped delay), most of the fare disseminated to American prime time television audiences includes gymnastics (proffering more eye glistening close-ups than most soap operas), swimming, bikini clad beach volleyball, and, as medal rounds approach, a goliath-like montage of highlights from USA Basketball dominating the world on an International court (replete with the oddly configured trapezoidal “paint” area).

Team handball, for some reason, has not been effectively fielded by the United States since world competition in 2006. The sport seems accessible enough. An indoor court or field oriented team game. Six on six, with a goalie – nearly matching the uniformity of hockey and indoor lacrosse. The naturalness of handling a ball with one’s hands – be it pass, dribble, shoot – producing a scoring game with exciting shots on goal, complex passing and defensive plays, and ultimately a fast paced spectacle of athleticism. Seemingly, team handball emerges as simply a logical evolution of having a ball between two teams.

Well ensconced in Europe, and elsewhere, with professional and club leagues entwined in the culture, team handball enjoys legacies of success as both a grassroots youth sport, and as national flag bearers on an international stage. In the United States team handball is most often relegated to a sequence of phys-ed class – where the rudimentary rules are discussed, and reluctant teams clad in the dour greys and blues of gym class garb are counted off in odds and evens. The universality, and simplicity of the sport makes it an activity well suited to the diversity of a gym class – but somehow the sport never made it out into the larger American Culture.

Perhaps the confusion of the name “handball” evokes the racquetless cousin of racquetball played in nearly every park in New York City, and term “handball” immediately gets devolved and denatured in that confusion, and any discussion of the sport falls on deaf ears. And, perhaps, the well established sports of baseball, football, and basketball fill most athletic needs, while sports like soccer and lacrosse have struggled for decades to gain prowess.

Wednesday
Jul042012

Derringer Pays Homage to Board Track Racing 

The X Games recently made its yearly pilgrimage to the ESPN family airwaves, as the thousands in attendance and the millions watching at home marveled at the awe inspiring continuation of Evel Knievel’s vision. It was a beautiful chaos, a poetic union of impending death and art. But it was far from original.

In the 1920’s, board track racing was the grandfather of extreme spot, but this was no senior stroll. Forget about shuffleboards-the original daredevils of board track racing danced with death (and many unfortunately had two left feet in the tango) on wooden boards. The banking angle on the corners was 60°, a flirtation with G-force far ahead of its time. Brakes were seemingly optional in the early era, with fans risking more than the ticket price should a rider lose control. And the vessel that caused gear heads to wager it all was the iconic motorized bicycle. Part Tour de France, part Indy 500, the two wheeled terror, now an icon in the annals of motorcycle history (and a forerunner to the less sexy moped), was American ingenuity at its finest. It was, in theory, a romanticized era that can never be replicated. Derringer Cycles dares to speed past this assumption.

An early Murderdrome

With an appropriate vintage aesthetic of the cycle that represented the true thundering roar of the Roaring 20’s, Derringer cycles is the present and the future of the original motorized bike’s resurrection. They customize the essence of the pleasantly minimal motorbike with a bespoke tailoring to modern needs. And they do so without losing the grit and testosterone driven rawness that made the motorbike a classic in the first place. Brashly snubbing the cookie cutter norms of the industry, Derringer designs and fabricates snowflakes, unique and original one-of-a-kind vehicles for its discerning clientele. A moto-hybrid drivetrain, 180 miles per gallon and emissions friendly for those into such details; hammered copper rivets, hand-crafted leather saddles and white tires for those like us that are infatuated by the look, which soon morphs into a mindset. Anyone can own a standard hog, but Derringer trims such fat. Sleek, clean and unapologetically cool, a Derringer rider, clad in a wool sweater or leather cap, stands out for the right reasons. Where others walk the plank to join denizens of cliché ridden, mass manufactured motorcycles, the only brush with a plank a Derringer rider encounters is his link to the forefathers of the genre, who bled on dangerous wooden planks. The ride no longer carries such danger and rebellion. The rider just may, because if he owns a Derringer, it is in his DNA.

From extreme to esteemed, it could only be a Derringer.

A Commissioned Derringer Cycle

http://www.derringercycles.com/

Wednesday
Jul042012

The Andy Griffith Museum

With the recent death of actor Andy Griffith, many have mourned the passing of an American era as well. Griffith, who found his way into the heart of our nation’s television audience as Sheriff Andy Taylor, was a symbol of simpler days, when things moved just a bit slower and our worries were confined to the local level. And when that local level was the whimsical Mayberry, life seemed to be a Rockwell painting. While perhaps this way of life will never be relived again in our frantic, wired modern existence, the patriarch of small screen stalwarts The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock ( as well as numerous film ventures) and his wholesome, neighborly message will endure forever.

In North Carolina, the same state where Aunt Bee always had a pie waiting and Barney Fife was always ready to take a proverbial pie to the face, The Andy Griffith Museum is a permanent homage to a man and the era he served. In Mount Airy, the experience is a forever changing blast from the past. Nostalgic fans, memorabilia enthusiasts and those who long for a time machine are entrenched in a wealth of remembrance and historic artifacts. The collection is a stunning array of props and wardrobe and trinkets, endowed from Griffith and other cast members of The Andy Griffith Show.

Mount Airy, Andy’s birthplace and childhood home, also hosts “Mayberry Days” an annual celebration of the man and his impact on American television and culture. It is also largely assumed to be the inspiration for the fictional community of Mayberry. Numerous locations and names mentioned in the show mirror real places and people in or near Mount Airy, such as Mount Pilot (neighbor Pilot Mountain) and Snappy Lunch, a still operating diner. In an installment of The Andy Griffith Show, Andy can be seen up close thumbing the "Airy News" an obvious play to Mount Airy’s newspaper. The Andy Griffith Museum and Mount Airy are, in effect, Mayberry; perhaps they do not have a Floyd the barber, but they likely have a relative of Floyd’s inspiration. They might not have a charmingly debaucherous Otis, but certainly his spirit fills the local taverns. They do have Barney’s on screen flame Thelma Lou, however. Actress Betty Lynn calls Mount Airy home, and is an avid guest at The Andy Griffith Museum.

Andy might have moved on to the great unknown, but he and Mayberry’s citizens are eternal within the confines of four walls. There will always be an engine that Gomer needs to repair. His cousin Goober will always be there to hand him a wrench. Aunt Bee will always be around for good southern cooking and advice, and Opie will always have an abundance of youthful optimism as he skips down the dirt road with his makeshift fishing rod.

And as always, Andy will be the man to oversee it all. The voice of reason, the good neighbor, the fair sheriff and the endearing single father, he is forever our American hero. All we have to do is whistle that familiar tune and visit The Andy Griffith Museum.

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