Buice column: COVID adds to Festival of Lights crowds

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2020

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What better time to make the annual visit to the Tanglewood Festival of Lights than on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, especially since it was a $5 per vehicle bargain night? Right?

Well, apparently many others had the same idea.

I saw the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office cars with their flashing blue lights in place as traffic stacked up on Harper Road over the bridge over I-40 around 6 p.m.

And this was with the addition of a new four-lane road just inside the park’s entrance to get more vehicles off the main roads and into the park. But it was an especially slow crawl before reaching the toll booth.

It ultimately took us about 3 1/2 hours to make it through the sea of red tail lights from the traffic light at Harper Road and U.S. 158 into and through the park to see the always amazing lights show before exiting on Idols Road.

Did I mention this was Tuesday night? You could expect this kind of turnout on a weekend night closer to Christmas. But we hadn’t even had the Thanksgiving turkey yet.

Even with the attraction of it being one of the four bargain nights on the first two Monday and Tuesday nights in November, there had to be another reason.


Yes, the coronavirus pandemic affects everything, and with most other holiday events where people used to gather being unavailable this year because of the restrictions, a drive-through alternative is the only show in town.

Expect record crowds at Tanglewood Park for this year’s event, even after the first weekend was postponed because of torrential rains in advance of the Nov. 13 opening that caused significant flooding.

Brandi Chappell, marketing and events manager at Tanglewood, said, “We do think that, due to COVID, our attendance will be significantly increased, as Festival of Lights is well suited for this unfortunate virus. We have seen wonderful attendance since we have opened. Our bargain nights were a hit again, and those were extremely busy nights.”

Even though it took much longer than we anticipated, it was still a wonderful time — and worth the wait — to enjoy the annual lights show and create special holiday memories with our family.


• • • • •

When’s the last time you’ve been to Mayberry, uh, Mount Airy?

For me, it’s been many, many years, except for driving through on U.S. 52, I-74 or 1-77.

But a recent day trip on a beautiful fall afternoon to explore downtown was quite the experience.

Certainly, the Andy Griffith theme dominates when you take a stroll down North Main Street.

Of course, it starts with Snappy Lunch, Andy’s favorite diner which is the town’s oldest eatery and the home of the famous pork chop sandwich. Right next door is Floyd’s City Barber Shop. And just down the way is Opie Fresh Fudge, Aunt Bea’s Candy Kitchen, Walker’s Soda Fountain, Barney’s Restaurant, the Loaded Goat Sports Pub & Grill and Weaver’s Department Store — just to name a handful.

The official Mayberry squad car is in also in place along the street, and apparently it’s available for a nostalgic ride. I’ll bet it gets serviced at Wally’s Service Station just down the road.

You get the picture.

It’s a delightful little town at the foothills of the mountains near the Virginia state line with lots of shops, restaurants and the usual tourist traps. It was a weekday on our visit, and parking places along with the main drag were still hard to find as tour buses rolled through.

It’s worth checking out, particularly if you’re a Mayberry fan.

• • • • •

In the days of the coronavirus, nothing has caught on quite like Zoom meetings, but they’re certainly not like the real thing of face-to-face interaction.

Instead, we have the Brady Bunch experience with everyone in their little boxes on the computer screen. It has served the purpose where gatherings of most sizes aren’t permitted, but some folks are getting downright tired of them.

Take Jeff Zenger, the former councilman in Lewisville who was recently elected to represent District 74 in the N.C. House. When appearing before the Clemmons Village Council to offer his thanks for support in the November election, Zenger extended his appreciation for appearing in a meeting where other humans were gathered socially distanced with masks.

“I’d like to thank you guys, and I mean this absolutely sincerely, for live meetings,” he said. “I told Councilwoman (Michelle) Barson that I don’t really want to ever do another Zoom call in my entire life. I thought it was cool when it was on the Jetsons, but you know, it’s not as cool as it was cracked up to be. I appreciate you guys for figuring out how you can make it work. That’s part of what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to live.”