APRIL FOOLS — Goodbye luxury. Hello, Andy Griffith.
Attempting to head off a developing image that Lakewood Ranch is becoming “too big,” Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch has announced it will host the Mayberry Festival.
The event, to be held Fourth of July weekend at the Premier Sports Campus, is designed to present the community as a “simple small town.”
The day’s festivities will include a “best of Florida” orange sherbet competition and leisurely family activities, including corn hole, horseshoe, bocce ball, potato sack races, hayrides and a hot-dog eating contest.
“We always get great turnout at our events, and this one, with its nostalgia factor, should be an especially big hit,” said Lisa Barnott, director of marketing and communication for SMR subsidiary LWR Communities, which will organize the festival. “Everyone seems to yearn for the easier, more simple days gone by.”
To build upon the theme of Mayberry, the fictional small town in the popular “The Andy Griffith Show” that ran on CBS from 1960 to 1968 — there also will be Opie and Ernest T. look-alike contests.
An Aunt Bee look-alike bikini pageant will held, as well.
SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen chuckled about the “Opie” look-alike contest, saying the deck is stacked in favor of SMR executive Todd Pokrywa, who will be entered in the contest whether he likes it or not. Barnott said the Opie contest, in particular, will have age divisions so contenders have a remote chance of winning against Pokrywa.
The East County Observer is sponsoring the look-alike contests and is taking applications for all three categories, starting immediately. Up to 20 entrants will be selected for each category.
To promote the event and to capitalize on Lakewood Ranch’s new small-town marketing concept, SMR has announced a “We’re Not Just Whistlin’ Dixie” contest. Residents can videotape themselves whistling a new theme song for Lakewood Ranch, similar to the opening credits of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Videotapes should be no longer than three minutes and should be uploaded to YouTube. Please email the YouTube links to [email protected]. The contest grand prize will be announced April 1.
Jensen said the choice of “Mayberry” as a theme came partially through the process of elimination and partly because it perfectly conjured up the intimate small-town image.
“We looked at branding the event as the Stepford Festival, but, for some reason, that just didn’t have the right ring to it,” Jensen said. “On the other hand, the feelings and images evoked by the Mayberry connection just kept hitting us as the perfect complement to our campaign.”
To apply to enter the look-alike contest, send your photo and which category you wish to enter to [email protected]. Please write “Mayberry Festival Contestant” in the subject line.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].