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Galax’s population will soar in the coming week, as thousands of fiddlin’ fans descend on the city. Felts Park will open its gates at 7 a.m. Sunday for the 79th Annual Old Fiddlers’ Convention. The competition opens Monday night and lasts through Aug. 9.
Most of the convention’s expected 1,300 campers will show up Sunday to set up camp.
Locals who aren’t convention-bound should avoid the place altogether or choose alternate routes, Galax police advise. Main Street north and south will be congested for most of the morning and should be avoided.
Members of Galax Moose Lodge #733, sponsor of the convention, have been getting the park ready and by Sunday afternoon, the park will be filled with tents, campers, RVs, tour buses, school buses, tepees and assorted improvised shelters.
Attendance is estimated at 35,000 to 40,000 over the week.
Out-of-towners and locals who want to immerse themselves in the ambiance will head into the park to camp. Around 80 percent of them will try to get in on Sunday, according to the Moose Lodge, and the majority will line up early that morning.
The Galax Police Department encourages those entering the park on Sunday morning to use Railroad Avenue.
Officers will work the intersection at South Main Street and Fair Street and make sure that the same number of vehicles from each side of Main are fed into the line entering the park.
Northbound vehicles on Main trying to enter the park must remain off the roadway to allow through traffic.
Campers who travel south on Main from U.S. 58/East Stuart Drive to the park must stay out of the highway until directed by an officer.
Officers will feed vehicles parked in spaces or private lots off the highway into the line headed to the park.
Motorists shouldn’t block intersections or attempt to enter an established line by going around the block and cutting in. Police caution motorists not to block the bridge over Chestnut Creek.
Don’t try to be clever and sneak into the head of the line. Officers say some vehicles drive around the park prior to the gate opening, hoping to get in first, but police don’t allow them to cut in line.
Police will keep one side of the road open for emergency traffic.
To avoid the long and slow-moving morning lines, campers who don’t care about snagging a certain spot should show up later in the day. Walk-in campers will be admitted after 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Drivers not trying to get into Felts Park should use alternate routes. The best way to avoid downtown altogether is to use Meadow Street, which runs parallel to Main.
Traffic coming north on Main will be detoured at Fair Street to Railroad Avenue, then west on Grayson Street and back to Main. Traffic coming south on Main will be detoured down Lafayette Street, Parkwood Avenue and MacArthur Street back to South Main.
The youth competition will begin Monday at 5:30 p.m. Youth bands will perform and individual contestants age 15 and younger will show off their skills on fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar.
Competitions the rest of the week all start at 6 p.m. Folk song and flatfoot dance competition will start at noon on Saturday.
Admission to the fiddlers’ convention is $6 on Monday through Thursday nights, $10 Friday night and $12 on Saturday. Season and contestant tickets are $40.
Children age 12 and younger are admitted free with a paid escort.
Camping fee is $80 per space.
• For more information, visit the event’s website, www.oldfiddlersconvention.com.