Robby Goodman was 10 years old when he brought out his trademark siren and hollered his lungs out in Spivey’s Corner to the delight of the judges, who crowned him the junior champion. That was in 1978. Now, nearly four decades later, Goodman is trying to lead the resurgence of the longtime Sampson staple.
“Are you ready to keep this NC staple alive?” the message on the World Wide Hollerin’ Festival website reads.
Goodman and former National Ladies Callin’ Champion Iris Turner have organized the first-annual World Wide Hollerin’ Festival, slated for 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8, at Paradise Acres in Hope Mills. The planning is still very much in the works. Goodman, a Sampson native and Midway High School graduate, said it is a bittersweet time, with excitement and anticipation for the event tempered slightly by the fact it will not be in Sampson.
“They had come out and said they weren’t doing it anymore and there’s not that many old hollerers out here anymore,” Goodman said of the Spivey’s Corner organizers. “We just want to take what they decided not to do and keep that going. We didn’t want it to fall by the wayside.”
The announcement was made in June that after 47 years of the National Hollerin’ Contest in Spivey’s Corner, the event was being suspended, with the door open to one final event in 2018 to mark the 50th anniversary.
The event was launched in 1969, putting the small Sampson community on the world stage behind the drive and determination of Spivey’s Corner native Ermon Godwin. The first contest was held in June 1969 at Midway High School and it fast became a summer tradition for many. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when there were people like Tom T. Hall and Dolly Parton singing at the contest, it hosted upwards of 5,000 people and extended almost a week.
That attendance dropped off in recent years, but was revived somewhat under the repackaged and expanded Hollerin’ Heritage Festival. Long a fundraiser for Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department, organizers said upon announcing the event’s suspension that they decided to go a different direction in raising money for the department.
“I would have loved nothing better than to have kept it (in Sampson),” Goodman remarked of the first-annual “World Wide” event set for Hope Mills. “I was born and raised in Clinton and went to Midway. Sampson County is where I cut my teeth, but now I live in Fayetteville. This is home now. We don’t want to upset (Spivey’s Corner organizers) or step on toes. We just want to enhance what has been a staple for so many years in Sampson County and North Carolina.”
Goodman was spurred on by a renewed interest when hollering took the national stage this summer.
He was a guest on CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” at the end of June, joining Tony Peacock, a six-time winner of the National Hollerin’ Contest, and Sheila Frye, a 10-time National Ladies Callin’ champ. A 17-minute documentary profiling hollerin’ and past champs Peacock, Goodman and Turner, created by Wake Forest graduate students Liv Dubendorf and Brian Gersten, has also been well-received not just in this country, but in the UK.
“Hopefully we can keep it going,” Goodman said of the hollerin’ momentum. “We have a lot of things in the works. We’ve done a lot of stuff in a short amount of time.”
The new event will offer a variation on the old staple.
“We put a little different twist on it,” Goodman noted. “We are looking for folks who have a unique sound, whether it’s traditional hollerin’, Native American calls or auctioneer chants — those sounds that can be traced back to yesteryear.”
For Goodman, hollerin’ has followed him nearly his entire life.
After winning the junior division in 1978, Goodman watched the adult champs Turner and Dan McLamb show their skills on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.” He recalled asking Godwin why he wasn’t invited. Just a few short years later, a 14-year-old Goodman competed as one of a dozen past junior champs in a special contest on the courthouse steps in Dunn. He won the chance to exhibit his own talents on national television, where he met Gilda Radner, Bo Diddley and Benji the dog.
He returned to Sampson a hometown celebrity. Even when he went into the Army (82nd Airborne) after high school, the Army Times profiled him about his time as a hollerer.
“I never really got away from it,” he laughed.
Along with the hollerin’ festivities, there will be plenty of activities for kids and adults alike at the Oct. 8 event, he said.
The festival is being presented by Paradise Acres, located at 1965 John McMillan Road, Hope Mills. The facility is equipped with a playground, basketball and volleyball courts, a bounce house, giant slide and train ride over its 12 acres. Attendees are also encouraged to bring their own chairs, blankets and coolers. In case of rain, there is a structure on the grounds that can accommodate 500 people.
Admission is $3 per person, with children 5 years of age and under admitted for free.
Money raised will support Wags4Tags, which will receive 80 percent of the proceeds from the festival to help those who have served their country by giving them a furry friend. Wags4Tags unites “psychologically and emotionally impaired veterans across North Carolina with trained companion, emotional support and dogs rescued from kill shelters so that the two can heal in unconditional love, trust and loyalty,” the organization states on its website.
Goodman said soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder have benefited greatly from the outreach. With the venue so close to Fort Bragg and as a U.S. Army vet himself, Goodman felt it was a fitting beneficiary.
“The main purpose is to have fun and raise money for a worthwhile cause,” he stated.
For more information, visit the festival’s website at www.WorldWideHollerinFestival.org and on Facebook by searching “World Wide Hollerin’ Festival.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.