11:38am Nov 04, 2016
H.H. Oliver, 1970 National Hollerin' Contest
Mr. H.H. Oliver performs at the National Hollerin' Contest, Spivey's Corner, NC, 1970.
Raleigh News & Observer

An irrepressible 49-year-old champion hollerer, Robby Goodman, is leading the effort to keep a hollering contest going in North Carolina. His efforts will bear fruit tomorrow, near Hope Mills. Town officials in Spivey's Corner cancelled the National Hollerin' Contest this year, after 47 years.  Attendance had fallen from the tens of thousands to fewer than 300 last year.  Robby Goodman is not about to let a celebration of hollering die, and he's managed to secure a location and raise enough money and media support to launch a new event.  

Here are the Raleigh News & Observer's and the Fayetteville Observer's reports on the old contest in its heyday, its demise and the rise of the new one.  We'll see what happens tomorrow.  If you're interested in attending the new hollerin' festival, here again is a link with information. 

Field and forest hollers were used for generations by native Americans, African Americans, and European Americans to navigate, send news, warn of danger, gather people together, and call for help in emergencies. And they also were great entertainment. 

I met Robby Goodman this week at Aperture Cinema, which was showing Brian Gersten's and Liv Dubendorf's excellent documentary on the Spivey's Corner contest, plus another film on the challenges facing many cultures and traditions, The Last Barn Dance.  We all joined Jesse Williams of Scalawag Magazine, which sponsored the evening, on a panel discussion following the screenings.

The art of hollering is mostly, though not entirely, about entertainment nowadays.  Goodman said his big challenge is to persuade enough people -- especially enough young people -- that this nearly lost art is still cool, and that it's worth becoming an expert at hollering, just as it would be to become a good fiddler or banjo picker, visual artist or athlete.

Goodman said he's recently discovered he's kin to the late Leonard Emmanuel, one of the most celebrated hollerin' champs of the old festival.  Check out this video of Mr. Emmanuel and others from the tenth annual Spivey's Corner contest.  I recall seeing and hearing Mr. Emmanuel at folk festivals, during the days when the National Hollerin' Contest attracted thousands of people of all ages from around the world, and the sound of traditional -- and not so traditional -- hollers graced the sets of late night national TV shows.