SPIVEY”S CORNER — The stage is set for the Hollerin’ Heritage Festival, whose third edition will see a full slate of live music, antique farm equipment displays, demonstrations and living history exhibits, as well as a classic car show, children’s entertainment, food vendors and, of course, the 46th Annual National Hollerin’ Contest.
The festivities are on tap for Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department, located at 8200 Newton Grove Hwy.
“We’ve added a couple more demonstrations, and some that people can participate in,” said Aaron Jackson, chairman of the festival committee and Spivey’s Corner volunteer firefighter. “They’ll be quite a bit out there to see and to do.”
That includes the antique farm equipment displays and plowing demonstrations by the N.C. Workhorse and Mule Association, along with living history exhibits demonstrating the traditional arts of quilting, farrier work, blacksmithing, tobacco tying, corn shelling, butter churning and sausage, biscuit and cracklin’ making.
Gates are scheduled to open at 11 a.m. While festivities will be held throughout the day, the Hollerin’ Contest will begin at 4:30 p.m. with the Junior and Teen Hollerin’ divisions and the Conk Shell Blowin’ contest. The Ladies Callin’ Contest will begin at 5 p.m. and the National Hollerin’ Contest will wrap up the day at 6 p.m.
The National Hollerin’ Contest, founded by Ermon Godwin, was born out of the need to fund the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department, established in 1965, and still serves as its main fundraising event. The monies raised from the event assist in giving the fire department the necessary means to better protect the community for which they lay their lives on the line.
“The money that comes from this event is a big part of what we are able to do,” Jackson remarked. “Every station gets tax money, but I think our Chief Alan Honeycutt said it best — we want to provide better fire protection than the members of our district can afford. That’s what the event is all about, so we can buy that equipment from our own hands to provide that service because the folks deserve it. The money we make every year goes directly to the department to purchase equipment and maintain what we’ve got throughout the rest of the year.”
The first contest was held the third Saturday in June 1969 at Midway High School and it fast became a summer tradition for many. While the revamped event moved to the second Saturday in September two years ago due to poor attendance and heat issues — closing the season out rather than ringing it in — Jackson said it is still the goal for the event to be a summer mainstay.
“We want people to come out and enjoy themselves, but also learn and get a history lesson on hollering, this community and the Southeast, because hollering was so prevalent (back in the 18 and 19th Century), we wanted to educate them about that,” Jackson has said. “It’s not just a contest we do every year. It’s aimed at preserving that folk art.”
The event hosted about 1,500 people in 2012, the last year before the revamp. It was a good turnout for the event in recent years, however that attendance rose to nearly 1,800 with the First Annual Hollerin’ Heritage Festival in 2013. Following a dip in 2014 due to last year’s weather, Jackson said he is hoping for a large crowd this year.
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. Jackson conceded that, while the event is still a far cry from its heyday, it is gaining steam with renewed interest.
“There’s been a lot of interest — news media interest, businesses and organizations in the county and the state interested in partnering with us and helping us getting the word out. That’s been a big plus,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of that going on before we made the change to the festival. Before, it was just the hollerin’ contest and I guess the novelty of that had kind of worn off.”
“A lot of people in the community looked at the hollerin’ contest like it was old hat,” Jackson continued. “Because we’ve added more to the event it’s attracted a lot more people.”
Along with the demonstrations, there will be plenty of live entertainment, including bluegrass music by The Walters Family, The Grass Cats and Dennis Cash, as well as clogging exhibitions by Kerry’s Dance Beat. Traditional hollerin’ lessons will also be given by 2014’s National Hollerin’ Contest champion Tony Peacock.
And leading up to the Hollerin’ Heritage Festival, a public screening of a documentary on the 2014 Hollerin’ Contest as well as another made in 1978 — each about 15 minutes in length — will be held at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4, at Spivey’s Corner Fire Department.
As part of the new documentary, Wake Forest grad students Liv Dubendorf and Brian Gersten delved into the art of hollerin’ and its history in Sampson, following three former champions, including Iris Turner, who won the ladies’ championship in 1977; Robbie Goodman, who won the junior division in 1978; and Peacock.
Jackson encouraged the public to attend the free screening, as well as the following week’s festival. Admission is $5 for adults, and free for children 12 and under.
“The word’s out there,” said Jackson, “it’s just a matter of people actually showing up.”
For more information, visit www.nationalhollerincontest.com or contact Aaron Jackson at 919-820-1909 or [email protected]
Reach staff writer Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.