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Features

  • Hanging up fliers and decorating cars in red, white and blue, locals are cheering on 11-year-old Alexandra Pyles of Galax and her teammates, who will appear in the next round of competition on the NBC reality show “America’s Got Talent” tomorrow, Tuesday, when the show goes live in Los Angeles at 8 p.m.

    Alexandra left for Los Angeles on Aug. 19.

    She is receiving national and regional recognition. On Aug. 18, she was interviewed by the Winston-Salem Journal and WXII Channel 12 News in Winston-Salem, N.C.

  • On Saturday evening, a program saluting the Round Peak sound will be presented at the Blue Ridge Music Center.

    Paul Brown, a Washington-based newscaster and reporter for National Public Radio, will host the 7 p.m. program.

    Brown is heard most mornings coast-to-coast on NPR’s Morning Edition.

    During his youth Brown came to the Galax area to learn Round Peak music, and he remains an enthusiastic supporter of the sound.

  • The Town of Fries, population 697, is the place where the country music industry really began. Located in a sheltered cove of the beautiful New River, tiny Fries had a major impact upon American music.

    Other places in Grayson and Carroll counties have a rich musical history, but Fries keeps its heritage alive in a picture-perfect setting — and those musical traditions thrive.

    In 1923, loom tender Henry Whitter, an employee of the old Washington Cotton Mill in Fries, became the first singer to record a country record.

  • At age 3, Benjamin Galyean is already reading music, and so is 6-year-old Jesse Dittrich, who has been diagnosed with a form of dyslexia.

    For almost 10 years, Charlotte McPherson, director of the Joybell Ringers at Galax’s First Baptist Church, has taught music to numerous families as siblings and moms come together.

    Her classes range from 2-year-old tots in the Baby Bell class to home-schooled teens and 30-something mothers in Beginner Bells and Joybell Ringers.

  • Where many people see only the things that divide us — race, class, gender, belief — musician Tremayne Blair sees the common spirituality that binds human beings together.

    The Galax-born singer and songwriter is pursuing a dream of spreading that message to the masses — one audience or congregation at a time, if necessary.

    On Aug. 2, Blair will host a concert at Cliffview Church of God in Galax.

  • The fiddlers’ convention brings out the weird in us sometimes, from jam sessions in Port-A-Johns and kazoo parades to naked bathing in Chestnut Creek and flinging flaming instruments — all real traditions of the 73-year-old event’s colorful past.

    One constant of Galax’s annual festival is the freaky and fanciful names musicians give their bands.

    They range from the funny to the obscure to the possibly perverted — if we only understood what they meant.

  • Registration for the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention increased overall for the first time in five years.

    Last year was the fourth year in a row that registrations for the convention declined. Registrations for 2007 were down 130 from the previous year.

    But for the 73rd annual event, overall registrations were 1,817 — up 52 contestants from 2007.

    Officials with the convention’s sponsor, Galax Moose Lodge #733, say the registration numbers have never reflected actual attendance.

  • 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.

  • Even in a sluggish economy, Galax-based textile mill Blue Ridge Crest and Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. are managing to run all out while their operations employ nearly 1,100 combined.

    “When the factories were closing a few years ago, my goal would have been to survive,” said Wyatt Bassett, executive vice president of Vaughan-Bassett. “But now, we’re beyond that, and as soon as the economy will allow it, we’d love to start growing again.”

  • FRIES — When most people think of rodeos they think of horses and cowboys, but the rodeo in Fries on Sunday featured a different kind of horsepower.

    If there were a “Best in Show” award for the Fries Volunteer Fire Department’s 2nd Annual Motorcycle Rodeo, it would have gone to Duane Taylor.

    Duane — along with son Caleb and wife Michelle — won five of the seven events held during the fire department fundraiser.

  • At 17, Kristen Jennings has already stood in an operating room filled with surgeons watching patients undergo medical procedures.

    And, more prestigiously, the student at Galax High and Southwest Virginia Governor's School has already presented scientific research to a board of professors and scientists.

    Jennings undertook a psychological experiment as part of the governor’s school science fair, as she sought to answer the question of why and how human beings help others in need.

  • Like most parents, Carrie Phipps — a mother of three and director of the Wellness Center in Galax — has begun to notice how technology has replaced the kind of active play children once knew, the sharp decline in physical activity and the lack of children's fitness programs.

    "There's not a lot offered in the area for this population, except for sports," said Phipps. "And with a lot of sports, heavier kids cannot participate."

  • It was a political prank worthy of The Joker himself.

    On Monday, motorists in Galax were startled, befuddled and — if they know their Batman comics and movies — maybe amused by a group of phony political campaigners handing out literature near Twin County Cinema III.

    Three well-dressed teens held balloons and signs that read “Take Back Gotham City — Vote Harvey Dent.”

    No, you haven’t missed Dent’s bid for president, and he’s not running for state office or city council.

  • That aroma in downtown Galax on Saturday wasn’t just the mouthwatering scent of smoked pork and tangy barbecue sauce.

    For a local team of cooks, it was the sweet smell of a long-sought victory.

    The Nervous Wreck Cooking Crew of Galax won first prize in the “Anything But” category at the 4th Annual Smoke On The Mountain State Barbecue Championship on Saturday.

    Team leaders Mark Davis and Cody Cline beat experienced, world-champion teams with their tender, juicy beef brisket.

  • Never let it be said that the folks who put on the Smoke On The Mountain state barbecue cookoff don’t go out of their way to help those who participate in the event.

    On Tuesday, when word reached the event’s volunteer coordinator, Carlene Poole, that the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile had gotten into a beef with police, she mustered the courage to ride to the rescue.

    Poole said she heard through a friend that the iconic vehicle had a run-in with police on its way to an appearance at the barbecue contest, which starts Friday in downtown Galax.

  • As a team of three Galax High School students stood anxiously on stage in a hotel conference room in Reston with several other competing school teams, recent high school graduate Drew Bobbitt said he was in shock as the GHS team was announced for first place in the state Future Business Leaders of America competition.

    "After we won, I called my parents, and I was so excited I was shaking talking to them," said Bobbitt. "I wasn't expecting to win. I was just along for the enjoyment."

  • With only one proposal on the table, Carroll officials are still marketing 91 acres owned by the county — and a partner in the venture to build the 600-seat Mayberry Opry music venue says he welcomes competition.

    Marshall Lineberry of Weststar Investments met with reporters — and Carroll Supervisors’ Chairman Sam Dickson, as it turned out — at the Crossroads Institute last Thursday to discuss the status of the Mayberry Opry project, after the county supervisors and the Industrial Development Authority members decided to market the land again.

  • A free party that's fun for all ages, Galax's new summer concert series “Groovin' On Grayson” will offer a chance to enjoy live outdoor music with friends — and the possibility of making new ones.

    While Galax is rich in its bluegrass and old-time musical heritage, the Galax Downtown Association wants to book local musicians that perform other genres — rock, rhythm and blues, beach, country, swing and jazz.

  • Job losses and plant closings have made it difficult for Twin County United Way to raise money for its annual campaign, but the non-profit organization still managed to raise 87 percent of its goal of $220,000 during its 2007 campaign, which recently concluded.

    TCUW raised a total of $192,000 to fund its partner agencies.

    "Job loss has affected everything," said Kim Rosenbaum, executive director of TCUW. "The ones that have been givers throughout the years are now the ones who need help."

  • Two couples in Galax are first-time homeowners, thanks to a partnership between local and federal agencies that provides new houses for people who couldn’t otherwise afford them.

    Jean and Rodney Howard and Donald and Beth Caldwell recently moved into new homes in the Knob Hill subdivision in Galax.

    The community started in 1995 and has grown to include more than a dozen homes for low- to moderate-income families.