Way back in 1935, in Galax, VA, the Moose Club was looking for a way to raise funds. Someone came up with the brilliant idea to host a fiddler’s competition. The idea was successful, to say the least. With the exception of the World War II years, the competition has been held every year since, and it has grown to be a week-long event, with competitions in every conceivable category related to mountain music. There are individual competitions in fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, autoharp, and more. There are band competitions for bluegrass bands and for old-time bands. There are dancing competitions. There is even a folk-singing competition. The park in downtown Galax fills with people camping out for the week, and the “campground” is filled with musicians jamming round-the-clock.
We attended the Friday and Saturday events, and we were able to see the competitions for bluegrass bands, old-time bands, and flat-foot dancing. In the midway area we were able to find our new friends, Jack Hinschelwood (Director of Heartwood) and Willard Gayheart (artist and guitarist). The cost was pretty reasonable ($20 for a two-day ticket to everything), but when you realize that there are no paid performers, it is pretty amazing that people are willing to pay at all to see this event. The performers (contestants) ranged from pure amateur, family acts, to highly-polished, international groups. We saw at least one band that had come all the way from Sydney, Australia to compete!