National Hollerin' Contest
National Hollerin' Contest
The National Hollerin' Contest gets my vote for the most culturally unique yet odd gathering in America. Hollerin'? Before the email, before the telephone, before the CB radio, before the automobile, before the daily newspaper, before just about anything used to project news and sound, people use to holler to get their message heard. Throughout the world, there was a time when hollerin' was the chief means of communication. As champion hollerer H.H. Oliver says, "It was a thing that had to go on. When you had trouble, you had to holler. There was as much a need for hollerin' as there was for eatin' in that day." Some hollered when they were in trouble, others used it to call their cattle, some just did it when they were good and drunk. Whatever the reason, everyone had their signature holler that was as recognizable their own name.
Like many of the events in this book, the National Hollerin' Contest held every June just sort of happened. In 1969, Ermon Godwin, a guest on a local radio show mentioned hollerin'. The host, John Thomas, reacted by telling Godwin that there should be a contest. Much to Godwin's surprise, 5,000 folks turned out that first year. Thirty some years later, the contest is alive and well and has grown multi-fold. Besides the hollerin', there's a whistling, conch shell blowing, fox horn blowing and a green pepper contest.
Then there's something called the watermelon roll. For this event, contestants attempt to carry a watermelon a distance of 20-yards as a member of the local volunteer fire department tries to knock them off their feet with a high-pressure firehose. While this is an alcohol free event, you can bet the doublewide that homemade wine and corn whiskey isn't hard to find. Admission to this day-long event in June is $3.
The above snippet is just one of a collection of 240 off-beat articles on 2camels from Nelson Taylor's wonderful America Bizarro.
America Bizarro is a unique travel guide that celebrates humorously interesting, pop-culture kitschy and off-the-map odd festivals, out-of-the-way gatherings, kooky conventions, conferences and contests throughout the United States.
National Hollerin' ContestBy: © Jan Friedman 2014
Hollerin' is much more than just yelling; it's a lost art that's been celebrated for 32 years at the National Hollerin' Contest in Spivey's Corner. Long before modern communications, folks in rural areas communicated by hollering over long distances to express distress, call in the livestock, or just plain 'chat'. Some hollerers rhymed in a sing-song way. Every morning each family would holler to let others nearby know all was well. If someone failed to check in, neighbors would come to investigate. During the event each contestant has four minutes to demonstrate his or her hollerin' skills. Finding a place to practice is problematic as anyone nearby is easily startled by the ruckus. Last year's winner appeared on David Letterman's talk show. You have to wonder if old time politicians campaigned by hollering, ' Vote for Joe!'