Old Time Fiddler’s Convention

Just got back home. We spent two nights at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia. Great place for fishing, hiking and spending time with your kids. A special shout-out to the staff who do an unsung job of keeping our state parks natural yet accessible. And the on-site restaurants are superb (local tip: try the potato soup at Hungry Mother).

Saturday, after an afternoon fishing, we took Rte 16 south through the rolling farms of Grayson County, then Rte. 58 east to Galax. We drove through downtown Galax and up to Felts Park, where the Fiddler’s Convention was well underway.

It was no surprise that George Allen billboards covered all the approaches to Galax. I was surprised to see that Jim Webb signs were well represented both along Rte. 58 and also on Main Street in Galax. You could tell there was a contest.

The Convention is a festival atmosphere. Thousands of people throng the infield at the Park, wandering through the campers and RV’s parked there for the weekend. Impromptu jams with banjos, fiddles and harmonicas are all about. The place is also lousy with state politicians who are trying to mix in and show the locals that “we’re real people too!”

It goes without saying that the Convention audience is rural and traditional. Jesus Christ and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are well represented on the tee shirts and jerseys. (But avoid any stereotyping… come November, they’ll be sending local Democrat Rick Boucher back to Congress for the 13th straight time).

With that in mind, Senator Allen was working the crowd in blue jeans and boots. He had obviously done this venue many times and looked very comfortable.

However, the Allen campaign was not overly dominant. Less than 1% of the concert goers were sporting an Allen sticker, even though they were being offered to everyone at the entrance gate. I had at least two passersby ask where they could get the “Webb” sticker I was wearing. Nothing earth-shaking, just a note.

Governor Tim Kaine was introduced on stage and got a very warm welcome. He has been active in bringing state economic assistance to Galax in the wake of the recent job losses in manufacturing.

The best show was the music. Hats off to the “Wright Kids” from Rocky Mount who gave a dynamite gospel version of “Crossing the River Jordan.” The crowd went nuts for that one. Special mention to “Special Ed” from Richmond who introduced the concept of urban mountain music by coming on stage with a “step show” reminiscent of an early Spike Lee film. Okay, not as a big a reception for that. But I enjoyed it.

The bottom line: a great time and an important piece of Virginia culture.


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