The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


September 26, 2010

A bit of 'Mayberry' walks the fairgrounds

BLOOMSBURG — His right hand rested on the butt of the gun at his side.

He snorted and curled his mouth up as people stopped and stared.

“Well, now, this beats all I’ve ever seen,” said a man who looked remarkably like he belonged in Mayberry. “Andy sent me up here and gave me my one bullet and said good luck.”

Scott Epperson, who portrays bumbling deputy Barney Fife at events across the country, strolled around the grounds of the Bloomsburg Fair on Sunday. He was to continue making the rounds at the fair, off Route 11, through today.

On Sunday, he posed for pictures, chatted with folks and talked about how he was keeping an eye on things.

“I’m thinning out the riffraff,” he said with a sniff. “I’ve given out a bunch of warnings to the jay-walkers.

“Ya gotta nip things in the bud.”

Don’t worry, his revolver wasn’t loaded. His single bullet was tucked neatly in his left shirt pocket.

That is, unless someone requested he pose for a picture with it.

Like Amanda Strubinger of Hazleton.

“My dad has been going on about this forever, since he saw on TV (Epperson) was going to be here,” said Strubinger, moments after having her photo snapped with “Barney.”

In truth, Epperson is originally from Mount Airy, N.C., the home town of Andy Griffith, who created and starred in the classic television show. Epperson now lives outside Fayetteville, N.C., but still has family back home.

An established theater actor, he travels North America imitating the character made famous by comedian Don Knotts at everything from county fairs to corporate events to military bases.

Thanks to cable channels such as Nick At Nite and TVLand, he’s recognized by everyone.

“I like your show,” said Anthony Kelchner, 7, of Berwick.

Epperson thanked him, patted him on the head and talked with him for a few minutes.

Standing near the livestock barn, dozens of folks came up to the spindly deputy, who kindly obliged with a confused look on his face as husbands snapped pictures of wives, and moms took pictures of kids.

But of all the people to portray — especially since the Andy Griffith Show last had an original episode in 1968 — why chose Barney Fife?

For Epperson, Fife has come to embody less a person and more a feeling.

For a few moments, he’s able to take people mentally back to a place where kids still walk barefoot down to the fishing hole, a guy named Floyd cuts their hair and a fellow named Goober fills their gas tanks.

“Good, down-home, simple living,” he said. “It’s a good memory for people. Especially in times like these with the economy and all, if I can make them smile, make them laugh and have a good time, I’ve done what I’m supposed to do.”

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