Hopewell Hash rural tradition lasted 101 years in York County. Now, it might be over

A century-old tradition of hash and fellowship appears to be over in York County -- and it’s passing might be forever.

The annual Hopewell Day celebration in western York County, which celebrated 101 years in 2018, has been canceled for 2019. A lack of volunteers, conflict with school calendars and dwindling attendance all contributed to the decision to cancel the event this year, organizers said.

The event was always celebrated on the third Wednesday in August after rural farmers in the countryside and towns of Hickory Grove, Smyrna and Sharon had finished putting crops away. A whole cow would be butchered and made into hash, then folks would gather for fellowship and Gospel singing.

“It hurts not to do it, but it got to be just too much for a few people to be able to do it,” said Melvin Howell, a longtime organizer who has missed just one Hopewell Day in more than seven decades.

For decades politicians would stump for votes and people would line up for the beef hash made of nothing but meat, onions, butter and salt. But politicians now can reach voters through the Internet and social media, and few people farm anymore.

The future of one of South Carolina’s longest-running rural traditions is uncertain.

“The number of people out here who can be a part of volunteering for it has dwindled,” Howell said. “It was not an easy decision. It hurts, to tell you the truth.”

Not even the fact that Dolly Parton’s family lived nearby at one time decades ago was able to stir interest.

The event was put on by the Tr-Cities Club at the old elementary school that served the area. The building was saved and refurnished by volunteers. The “Tri-Cities” are the tiny towns of Hickory Grover, Sharon and Smyrna. Smyrna is the smallest incorporated town in South Carolina with about 50 residents.

Chris Revels, another organizer, said he and others will talk in the coming year about possibly moving the event to the weekend.

“We just can’t muster enough help and crowds have dwindled,” Revels said. “But we are going to talk about what we can do. This is a great tradition.”

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