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Hopwell Hash brings together people, food, singing and fun

When more than 100 pounds of butter, hundreds of onions and nearly half a ton of meat come together in Hickory Grove, it can mean only one thing.

It's time to make some Hopewell Hash.

Wednesday, the community will celebrate Hopewell Day -- also known as The Big Day, Big Wednesday, Hopewell Picnic and Hopewell Singing -- just like they have for the last nine decades. It's a day for food, music and memories.

"It's like a family reunion and a class reunion and a church social and everything combined," said Dale Mitchell, who has attended since 1977.

Hopewell area farmers started the festival in 1918 to celebrate the laying of crops, according to a press release. It was the period in the summer, when days were hot and work was slow. The local singing school students got out about the same time, so the students and farmers would get together for singing and a picnic.

Sometime in the 1920s, a group began making Hopewell Hash. The men used to butcher a steer and then stay up all night Tuesday to prepare the hash, adding in butter and seasoning.

There aren't as many people living in the Hopewell area now, Mitchell said. The population hovers around 11. Today, the meat is bought instead of butchered and the butter is from a grocery store instead of a local churn, but for the most part, the event is the same as it's always been.

The Tri-Cities group and other western York County residents have sponsored the event for the past 35 years. Hundreds of people from miles around attend each year. Some are new, and some have been attending for years, Mitchell said.

"Every year, we'll hear a group of people say this is the first time we've ever been," he said.

They're always welcomed.

Many older people who grew up in the area and wrote their names on the school walls as children will be there. When you have people like that gathered together, there are plenty of stories told, Mitchell said.

"There's a lot of history told down there," Mitchell said. "Every year, the stories change, but I think they all try to remember the best they can."

Singing groups this year will include The Chappelettes of Gaffney, The Parkers and Mrs. Helen Hudson and grandchildren. Singing starts at 10 a.m. at the old Hopewell School House.

Chris Revels has been a part of the Hopewell Day since 1976, but this year, he won't make it. He's got to fight a fire in Montana instead.

He hates to go, but "when the job calls, you have to respond," he said.

Revels' son, Cody, is 20 and has been helping cook the hash since he was about 7. He enjoys spending the time with his dad and is dissapointed neither of them will be able to make it this year, he said.

"We have a good time," he said. "It's just a nice atmosphere."

Hopewell Day festivities will be held at the old Hopewell School House off S.C. 97 outside Hickory Grove from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday. Call Dale Mitchell at 628-0926 for more information.

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