Monday, August 4, 2008

Galax: "World's Capital of . . .

. . . Old time Mountain Music." And this is most evident from August 4-9 this year. Every year since 1935, except one year during World War II, old time and bluegrass musicians and nearly 50,000 fans of this music gather in the World Capital for a week's worth of musical enjoyment.

The line of RVs and tent campers begins to form at the parking lot entrance by mid-day Saturday. By early Sunday morning, the lot is full and the competitors are renewing acquaintances. Everyone in the lot will be staying the full week, because parking is so close that you no one exits unless everyone exits. The photo above shows about half the RVs in the parking lot.

Not only do the performers have a routine to prepare for the competition, but also the spectators seem to have a strategy for preparing for the night's listening. They arrive early (some walk from their RVs) to set up their chairs, thus staking their claims to seating locations. We arrived about 90 minutes before the competition began to find this troop of colorful sentries manning their posts (above).

Some of the younger fans bring some tools to help pass the time while waiting for the competition. This fellow became so engrossed in his world that he played through the first few competitors.

The third group preparing for the week-long reunion-party-competition are the vendors. In addition to the fried catfish (see the sign in the first photo above), there was the usual array of "fair food:" funnel cakes, bloomin' onions, hot dogs (barely warm), and "best hamburgers in town" (very small town). One of the next nights we will try the half-pound pork loin sandwich, but I think we'll pass on the roast corn on the cob. You can't beat the small, sweet kernels of Jersey sweet corn.

Tonight was the youth individual competition in old time fiddle, bluegrass fiddle, mandolin, bluegrass banjo, clawhammer banjo, guitar, and bands. Two contestants who really wowed the
crowd were Carson Peters (shown here), age 4, who played "Tennessee Waltz" on the fiddle (old time) and Samantha Snyder, age 9, who also played the fiddle, but in the bluegrass category. Each placed second in their respective categories. Carson earned his second place; Samantha should have been awarded first place. [For those of you who remember that Samantha is a member of the Snyder Family who played at the Lincoln Theater last Saturday (see August 2 entry), be aware that competition at Galax is open to anyone, both professionals and amateurs.]

Samantha is shown here being accompanied by her brother Zeb during her performance in the bluegrass fiddle competition. Later in the evening, Zeb earned a well-deserved first place in the guitar competition.

While attending jam sessions over the past weeks, we were told to catch the impromptu jams that occur in the parking lot during the individual competition on the main stage. We took this photograph of one of the several sessions as we were leaving the park. I'm sure these will continue long into the evening.

What did we learn tonight: we learned where to park, what not to eat, where to sit to catch a breeze, and that we need to bring our own chairs (sitting on concrete benches in the grandstand is not comfortable).

There are five more days of competition.

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