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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 73rd 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.
This weekend, members of Galax Moose Lodge 733, sponsor of the convention, will get the park ready and set up the stage under the big yellow tent.
By Sunday afternoon, the park will be filled with tents, campers, RVs, tour buses, school buses, tepees and assorted improvised shelters.
The convention attracts people from all over the world. Some come to experience the music, while others use the event as a social occasion or a chance for a reunion.
Attendance is estimated at 40,000 to 50,000 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.
Some have already arrived, parking their campers in lots all over Galax and on the side of South Main Street near the Dairy Bar.
The Galax Police Department encourages those entering the park on Sunday morning to use Railroad Avenue.
Officers will work the intersection at the Galax health department office — at South Main 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.
Vehicles trying to enter the park and traveling north on South Main — from the health department south to Horton’s Supermarket — must remain off the roadway to allow through traffic.
Police caution motorists not to block the bridge over Chestnut Creek.
Campers who travel south on Main — from U.S. 58/East Stuart Drive — must stay out of the highway until directed by an officer.
Motorists shouldn’t block intersections or attempt to enter an established line by going around the block and cutting in. Officers will feed vehicles parked off the highway in spaces or private lots into the line headed to the park.
Don’t try to be clever and sneak into the head of the line. The Galax cops have seen it all.
Officers say some vehicles drive around the park prior to the gate opening, hoping to get into the park first, but police don’t allow them to cut in line.
Campers always line up early, but they shouldn’t panic and immediately pull out into the road when gates open at 7 a.m. This creates a traffic problem for officers directing traffic, and usually results in the entire road being blocked.
Police try to keep one side of the road open for emergency traffic.
The best advice police can offer is to be patient and courteous.
Campers who show up on Sunday are virtually guaranteed a space.
Officers will even help campers — or anyone — get into Hardee’s to buy a biscuit that morning, if they ask for help.
Drivers should come up Bartlett Street to Main and an officer will assist them.
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 passing through Galax and 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 back to Main.
Traffic coming south on Main will be detoured down Lafayette Street, Parkwood Avenue and MacArthur Street back to South Main.
Down in the park, officers will be patrolling by bicycle and in cars to assist motorists trying to navigate around the convention.