A popular folk festival held in Sampson County, the Hollerin’ Contest is rooted in the agricultural heritage of the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The community of Spivey’s Corner hosts the event, and since the late 1960s the festival has attracted citizens from across the state.
In Encyclopedia of North Carolina, Craig Stinson details the folk art. In an age before the telephone and loudspeaker, farmers yelled and hollered “to communicate across large fields.” Living acres from one another, neighbors also hollered to communicate. Messages ranged from salutations such as good afternoon to emergency alerts.
Like Mule Day in Johnston County and the numerous harvest festivals throughout the state, the Hollerin’ Contest emerged out of local farm culture. However, with improvements in communication technology, hollering fell out of common practice. During a late-1960s radio broadcast, Ermon H. Godwin and John Thomas, two of the founders of the event, ironically discussed plans to start a hollering event.
After the broadcast, the Spivey’s Corner community, then only forty-eight residents, followed suit. The first event attracted over 2,000 people to Sampson County in June 1969. Time, the Associated Press, and numerous other media outlets provided press coverage. Dewey Jackson, the festival’s first champion, hollered a version of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” President Richard Nixon sent him a congratulatory note.
Although Spivey’s Corner remains a small community, it hosts an event that currently attracts anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 tourists. Television shows such as The Tonight Show and magazines such as Sports Illustrated have featured event contestants and winners and have thereby increased the event’s popularity. The National Hollerin’ Contest is an annual event, held on the third Saturday in June. According to Craig Stinson, the contest’s central goal is to continue “the art of hollering alive in the state and raising funds for the Spivey’s Corner Volunteer Fire Department.”
“Folk Festivals; Hollerin’ Contest.” Craig Stinson. William S. Powell, ed. Encyclopedia of North Carolina (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill, NC 2006).
“History of Hollerin’ – The National Hollerin’ Contest (1969 – present).” Ibiblio.org. http://www.ibiblio.org/hollerin/history.htm, (accessed June 28, 2012).
“The Almost Lost Folk Art of Spivey’s Corner Hollerin’.” Catawba College, News & Events, January 2005. http://www.catawba.edu/news/archive/2005/01/05/kjasper.asp, (accessed June 28, 2012).