Fiddlin’, the feature-length documentary film about the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, VA, is now available on two major streaming services online. Both Amazon and iTunes have added the film to their catalog today, allowing viewers to either purchase or rent the film to watch in the comfort of their homes.
The project is a collaboration by two sisters from nearby Hillsville, VA, Julie Simone (Director and Writer) and Vicki Vlasic (Producer and Writer), who wanted to convey the special atmosphere that surrounds the festival each year. For 84 years, the Galax Moose Lodge has run the event, which includes competitions for all the instruments used in old time and bluegrass music, plus both old time and bluegrass bands. The list of contestants, who must pre-register several months in advance, often runs to well over a thousand people.
And many thousand more descend on the city of 6500 people during the first week of August, known locally as Fiddlers week. Hotel rooms are booked up many months before, and every restaurant puts on extra help to serve the friendly faces, many of whom return year after year. The action takes place at Felts Park, right on Main Street, a 28 acre facility set up for both rough and RV camping, with a covered grandstand for 3,000 music lovers, and lawn chair seating besides.
Of course the music is great all week, with a steady stream of competitors crossing the stage, but it’s the sense of community in the campsites that is the biggest draw. Galax veterans travel many hours to spend a week with friends, often folks they have met at previous conventions. The State Police keep the area safe and under control, and families and friends camp side-by-side with everyone from Granny down to the littlest baby in tow. Most folks cook their meals outdoors, and it smells like the world’s biggest barbecue all week long.
Almost every visitor is also a picker, and jams break out as soon as the tarps and campers are set up. You can spend hours just roaming these camp sites and hear every kind of acoustic folk music you might imagine. You’ll find old timers, preserving the traditional mountain music they learned from their elders, and irreverent youngsters pushing against the boundaries. Bluegrass and old time musicians congregate separately, but take part in the same Galax experience side-by-side, of every age, and at every hour.
All this is what Julie and Vicki set out to capture on film when they came with a crew in 2015 for the 80th annual convention. The story is conveyed in a mix of interviews with pickers and campers, plus scenes of music in the campground and on stage.
Since being released, Fiddlin’ has won 15 awards at film festivals, including 7 audience choice awards and 2 best cinematography prizes.
Now audiences everywhere can watch via online streaming on any device with either an Amazon or iTunes app, including smart TVs and those hooked up to an Apple TV or Roku unit. It can be purchased on either system for $9.99 to watch indefinitely, or as a 30 day rental for $4.99.
Here’s a look at the trailer.
Everyone who enjoys bluegrass, old time, or mountain music should watch this film. I expect to do so tonight.