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Registration for the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention is down by 141 contestants from 2013, one of the largest drops in the past four years.
Registration numbers had been declining slowly but steadily for the past three years, after topping out at 2,004 contestants for the event’s 75 anniversary in 2010. This year’s total is 1,675.
The registration figures were released by the Galax Moose Lodge #733, organizers of the 79-year-old event, the world’s largest gathering of bluegrass and old-time fans and musicians.
The number of contestants dropped to 1,909 in 2011, then to 1,833 in 2012 and 1,816 in 2013.
This year, the only category to show an increase over 2013 was dance, which increased from 92 to 97.
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 1,675 total.
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.
The biggest decline this year was in the bluegrass banjo category, which lost 36 contestants compared to last year.
Guitar is the largest category, with a total of 282 entries. It only decreased by three from last year. The smallest category is Autoharp, with 53 competitors. That’s down from 57 last year.
• The convention runs Monday through Saturday in Galax’s Felts Park. Winners will be announced early Sunday morning. For more information, visit /oldfiddlersconvention.com/.