Convention registration declines

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Registration at the Galax Old Fiddlers' Convention is down slightly from last year, but about even with 2009's numbers.

By Brian Funk, Editor


Registration for the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention has decreased for the first time in five years, dropping from 2,004 last year to 1,909.
Until 2008, the convention had been experiencing a five-year slump. The upward trend for the past four consecutive had been encouraging to the Galax Moose Lodge #733, organizers of the 76-year-old event.
But, numbers for last year's event could have been artificially high compared to previous years, because the convention was celebrating its 75th anniversary. This year's numbers are more in line with the 2009 registration, which totaled 1,905.
Officials with the Moose Lodge say the registration numbers never reflect actual attendance. Because musicians must be pre-registered to perform, they often send in a registration form before making actual plans to attend.
A total of 95 fewer contestants signed up this year, compared to an increase of 99 contestants from 2009 to 2010.
The biggest decline this year was in the bluegrass banjo category, which lost 25 contestants compared to last year.
Other declining categories include Autoharp, clawhammer banjo, bluegrass fiddle, dobro, dance, guitar, mandolin, old-time band and bluegrass band. Losses in these categories ranged from three to 16.
The convention’s increasingly popular youth night on Monday continues to draw more and more competitors each year, but contestants register the day of the event and are not included in the 1,909 total.
Registration increased from 2010 in three of the 13 categories — dulcimer, folk song and old-time fiddle. Guitar is the biggest category, with 319 contestants registered. Dobro is the smallest category, with 68 signed up.
The convention runs through Saturday in Galax’s Felts Park. Winners will be announced early Sunday morning.
Performer registration also has little to do with how many fans come to Galax for the event.  Attendance over the week is estimated at 35,000 to 40,000.