Hollerin’ Heritage Festival just a shout away
by Chris Berendt Staff Writer
SPIVEY’S CORNER — The National Hollerin’ Contest has been a fixture in Spivey’s Corner for more than four decades, but this year marks a rebirth that has seen the long-running event’s date moved, festivities expanded and a focus that hearkens back to the history of hollering.
The First Annual Hollerin’ Heritage Festival is on tap for Saturday, Sept. 14, from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department, 8200 Newton Grove Hwy. The transition is one Aaron Jackson, chairman for the Hollerin’ Heritage Festival committee, has been publicizing throughout Sampson and surrounding counties since last year.
Jackson cited decreased attendance and June’s horrible humidity as a decision by organizers to move the date. Expanding the festivities is a way to bring more people to the event in an effort to further pass on the meaning — as well as preserve the art — of hollering.
The 45th annual Hollerin’ Contest will still be at the heart of the Hollerin’ Heritage Festival, wrapping up a full slate of festivities with a bang. Jackson expressed his belief that the Hollerin’ Contest can return to its former glory, and is optimistic that modifications made to the event, which will include living history exhibits, a BBQ Cookoff, a classic car show and an antique tractor show, are a move in the right direction.
Feedback from sponsors and the community have been a great sign.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind,” Jackson said Monday. “The vendor booths are full. We’ve had to turn people away, something we haven’t had to do for a while.”
This year’s event will feature the event’s first-annual BBQ Cook-Off, officially sanctioned by the N.C. Pork Council. There are 15 teams for the cookoff, sponsored by Murphy-Brown and Prestage Farms, a development Jackson called “extraordinary.” Bleeker Automotive in Dunn is sponsoring the entertainment for the day.
As part of the revamped festivities, there will also be antique farm equipment displays and plowing demonstrations by the N.C. Workhorse and Mule Association, along with the living history exhibits such as quilting, blacksmithing, as well as tobacco tying and corn shelling, as well as homemade butter, sausage and biscuit making demonstrations.
With hollering still a main tentpole of the event, contests will include Junior Hollerin’, Teen Hollerin’, Conk Shell Blowin’ and Ladies Callin’ Contest, along with the Hollerin’ Contest itself.
All proceeds from the event will go to the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department, assisting in the purchase of new equipment and maintaining current equipment as is necessary to better protect the community. The National Hollerin’ Contest, founded by Ermon Godwin, was born out of the need to fund the department, established in 1965, and still serves as its main fundraising event.
Its origins came on a weekly radio broadcast with fellow contest founder and area resident John Thomas, when Godwin jokingly suggested reviving the lost art of hollering’ by holding a contest, the proceeds from which would benefit the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department.
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 it has moved to the second Saturday in September, closing the season out rather than ring it in, Jackson said it is still the goal for the event to be a summer mainstay.
At Saturday’s First Annual Hollerin’ Heritage Festival, the Walters Family will perform bluegrass music and Classic Antique Power out of Benson and South River Tractor Club will be in attendance.
Through the tractor show, visitors will be able to vote for a winner through donations in a bucket for the tractor of their choice. All the money is donated to the fire department, and the tractor owner with the fullest bucket gets a “Best in Show” trophy. The children will have their fair share of entertainment, with inflatable rides and face-painting, as well as other fun to be had, Jackson said.
And the National Hollerin’ Contest is going nowhere, but will be part of a bigger offering that really pays tribute to the art and history of a long-enduring form of human communication.
“We’re planning on having some of our past champions do a little seminar, so people can go in and learn how to holler and give them an idea of what it was used for and how it’s actually done,” Jackson said. “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. It’s not just a contest we do every year. It’s aimed at preserving that folk art.”
Jackson said the event hosted about 1,500 people last year, which he said was a good turnout for the event in recent years. However, 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.
There was also alcohol at that point — that is no more. Several years ago, organizers began to tinker with the event and it adopted a sort of beach theme. New visitors have been attracted to the event, but the attendance just has not been there.
With this year’s changes, and the overwhelming reaction from sponsors and residents, event organizers are optimistic to say the least.
“I think we’re going to see a huge turnout,” Jackson said.
With a sunny, mid-70s temperatures forecasted, Jackson said he was anticipating a great day.
“That will do wonders for us,” he said. “We’re looking forward to Saturday and what it will mean for the community and for the fire station.”
Admission is $5 for adults, and free for children 12 and under. For more information, visit www.nationalhollerincontest.com.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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