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State and local officials gathered in front of thousands at the Galax Old Fiddlers' Convention on Saturday night to celebrate the new addition of a permanent stage constructed in Felts Park in honor of the event's 75th anniversary.
The traditional yellow tent, which sheltered convention performers for 25 years, this time was set up behind the stage and used as a holding area for musicians.
For the first time, Old Fiddlers' Convention participants got to put the newly constructed permanent stage to use.
“For 75 years, folks have been coming to Galax to enjoy music, learning and friendship,” Galax Mayor C.M. Mitchell told the crowd. “Tens of thousands of musicians have been playing here and many have became legendary for their musical ability.”
With youth continuing the spirit of bluegrass and old-time music, the convention is expected to carry on for many years.
“Youth continues the tradition and teaches what this music stands for,” said Mitchell.
The convention started in 1935 in a standing-only room, with people having to be turned away. It has grown to welcome as many as 40,000 throughout the week, and “no one is turned away,” said Tom Jones of the Galax Moose Lodge, sponsor of the fiddlers' convention.
In January 2007, convention committee members of the Galax Moose Lodge met with Dave Nelson, director of the Galax Recreation Center, to discuss constructing a permanent stage in Felts Park to have in place by the 75th anniversary.
“I am glad to say that we met that goal,” said Jones.
The cost of the construction of the stage is estimated at $240,000, and was funded with a $100,000 grant from USDA Rural Development and matching funds from the City of Galax and the Galax Moose Lodge.
“The Moose Lodge donated $50,000 for one week of use, and for 51 weeks [of the year], others can use it,” said Jones.
The permanent stage also will accommodate various productions throughout the year.
Branson Construction of Chilhowie began work in April on the stage, and it is set for total completion next month.
The 20-by-28-foot permanent stage has a stone foundation and wooden overlay, with framed log siding and a metal roof to give it a rustic appearance. The interior will feature heating and air conditioning; dressing, sound and warm-up rooms and restrooms.
Officials celebrated the construction of the stage with the cutting of a yellow ribbon.
Prior to the dedication of the stage, officials also met for the annual Poor Man's Dinner political event at the picnic shelter in Felts Park, attended by hundreds of state, federal and local leaders.
The event is sponsored each year by the Twin County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Freddie Bobbitt of the Galax Moose Lodge accepted on behalf of the lodge a fiddle from the chamber that recognizes the anniversary of the event.