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Fiddlers' contestant registration holds steady

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There was only a small drop in musician sign-ups from last year.

By Brian Funk, Editor

Registration for the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention is down only 17 contestants overall from 2012, the smallest drop in registration numbers in several years.
The registration figures were released by the Galax Moose Lodge #733, organizers of the 78-year-old event, the world’s largest gathering of bluegrass and old-time fans and musicians.
Contestant registration decreased for the third year in a row, after topping out at 2,004 contestants for the event’s 75 anniversary in 2010. number of contestants dropped to 1,909 in 2011, then to 1,833 in 2012. This year’s total is 1,816.
Tom Jones of the Galax Moose Lodge, publicity chairman for the event, said that, “we had three less old-time bands and three more bluegrass. Bands broke even,” Jones said. “Some categories were down. Guitar was down many, but several other categories are up.”
The convention’s increasingly popular youth night on Monday continues to draw hundreds of competitors — more and more each year — but contestants register the day of the event and are not included in the 1,816 total.
The smaller decline is good news for the event, but the recent decreases haven’t caused much alarm for the Moose officials, who say that 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.
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.
Categories that increased were clawhammer banjo (the biggest jump, with 22 more contestants than last year), dobro, dulcimer, folk song, mandolin and bluegrass band.
The biggest decline this year was in the guitar category, which lost 28 contestants compared to last year. Guitar is also the largest category, with a total of 285 entries.
The smallest category is Autoharp, with 57 competitors.
Other declining categories include Autoharp, bluegrass banjo, bluegrass fiddle, flatfoot dance, guitar, old-time fiddle and old-time band.

The convention runs Aug. 5-10 in Galax’s Felts Park. Winners will be announced early Sunday morning.