Enquirer Herald

Best in the West

What's the best of the west? We asked, and dozens of you responded. Here is Enquirer-Herald's list of the Top 10 Attractions in Western York County, hand-picked and ranked by our readers.

10) Hopewell Hash

For 90 years, residents of the western York County towns of Hickory Grove, Sharon, and Smyrna have gathered on the third Wednesday of August for Hopewell Day. Named for the old Hopewell School and held on the school grounds off S.C. 97, the day is all about beef hash -- "Hopewell Hash" -- and hearing Gospel music. The day was created as a way for rural farming families to come together after crops were finished, and has held on to this day through wars and droughts as hundreds of descendants and newcomers gather to eat hash cooked in old cast iron kettles, listen to music, and swap stories about family and friends. The Tri-Cities Community Clu, organized some years back to keep traditions of rural life alive in Sharon, Hickory Grove and Smyrna, runs Hopewell Day each year.

9) Museum of Western York County

The Museum of Western York County, at 1716 B. Woodlawn St. in Sharon, celebrates the long history of the area's settlers and leaders. It contains thousands of items -- 800 photos alone. Items in the museum include crosscut saws, a 1930s voting box, white oak baskets made by the late Charlie Cole and a covered wagon donated by a Hickory Grove resident that dates back to the Spanish-American War and World War 1.

8) Sylvia Theater

Nestled in the heart of downtown York is a beautifully-restored theater, The Sylvia, which harkens back to the glory days of the movie palaces. Re-opened in 2001 by Paul Finnican, the theater now serves as a venue for both first run films and live entertainment. Folk, blues and rock have all graced the stage at the Sylvia with name artists such as Doc Watson, Edwin McCain and Leon Russell performing. The theater, according to its Web site, hopes "to be a forum and performance showcase for the regional/local and when availability and schedules permit, nationally acclaimed artists."

7) Windy Hill Orchard

The York orchard and cider mill was created by the Gusmers family, who was craving apple cider doughnuts, when they moved to South Carolina from New Jersey in 1978. The family's initial quest to satisfy a sweet tooth birthed the Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill, where apples are grown, cider is pressed and apple cider doughnuts are made today.

Thirty years later, the orchard and cider mill opens seasonally, providing butters for apples, peach, pumpkins and strawberries during their growing seasons. Johnny Appleseed even makes the occasional guest appearance, above.

The thought that originated with the Gusmers' growling stomachs now plays host to an annual Apple Harvest Festival that is staged on the third Saturday of October each year. The festival has everything from hay rides to pumpkin patches that thousands partake in each fall.

6) Clover School District's Auditorium and performing arts series

The 1,500 seat Clover School District Auditorium opened in the fall of 1994, and has since hosted a variety of school concerts and community events including theater, concerts, dance recitals, civic and church events. The auditorium also sponsors an annual performing arts series featuring comedy, dance, drama and musical performances. The auditorium is also available for rental to both profit and nonprofit groups.

"When a show is running, we have more than 150,000 watts of lights turned on," said David Yandle, auditorium manager. "Every show is different -- lights, sound, stage set-up has to be changed for each show."

5) Filbert's Peaches

Filbert might as well be known as the land of the peaches. Each summer, hundreds of acres produce juicy South Carolina-grown peaches for various family-run farms and produce stands in Filbert. On summer afternoons, you'll likely find author Dori Sanders at her family's roadside stand selling peaches and signing autographs for her books, "Dori Sanders' Country Cooking: Recipes and stories from the family farm," "Clover" and "Her Own Place." The Sanders operate one of the oldest African-American farms in the Carolinas.

4) Feis Chlobhair

It's not uncommon to see men in kilts, below, during Feis Chlobhair, Clover's annual Scotch-Irish Festival that celebrates the town's roots and sister city relationship with Larne, Northern Ireland. Held each June, festivities include Scottish athletics games, a Border Collie demonstration, Irish dancing, Highland dancing, live music and more.

Carla Pendleton, festival organizer, told Enquirer-Herald this summer Clover's festival is the only one of its kind in the area.

"There are some other Scottish games. Ours is the only Scotch-Irish one," she said.

The festival usually draws hundreds of people from across the Southeast, she said.

3) Draper Wildlife Management

Located near McConnells, the Draper Tract consist of 806 acres rolling hills and foliage, which was acquired by the Department of Natural Resources on Oct. 30, 1995. It was purchased from the Nation Ford Land Trust with funds from the York County Game and Fish. Since its purchase, $100,000 of York County Game and Fish funds have been authorized to manage the property, keeping in top shape for visitors.

The area serves a popular bird watching, hiking, fishing and hunting site. White-tailed deer, and wild turkey populations are contained on the property, while special seasons and/or bag limits apply for quail, rabbit and turkey.

2) Summerfest

Offering everything from bluegrass music to a classic car show to hot-air balloon rides, Summerfest draws thousands of visitors each year to downtown York. Summerfest, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this summer, showcases the White Rose City in all of its glory and historic intrigue.

The festival wasn't always Summerfest. It all started in 1960, when community-driven Jaycees organized the York Colonial Festival. This event included a golf tournament, parade, beauty pageant, ball and tour of homes, with local women attired to represent the colonial era. With South Carolina becoming a major grape-producer and York County at the forefront, local Jaycees and grape growers agreed to rename the Upstate attraction the South Carolina Grape Festival, which debuted in 1965. The excitement and pageantry of the grape festival spanned 15 years, concluding in 1979 amid the grape market's near collapse. Festival activity went dormant in the White Rose City until the arrival of Summerfest in 1984. Now, it's been called a Top 20 South Carolina attraction and this year's estimates said crowds topped the 50,000-mark.

1) Historic Brattonsville

The crown jewel of western York County is Historic Brattonsville, a 775-acre living history village and Revolutionary War battlefield. The site includes historic homes constructed by the Bratton family, who owned the land and housed slaves in several smaller structures in the 1800s. A total of 36 building still stand on the historic property in McConnells, and animals that were similar to those the Bratton family may have had -- horses, pigs and sheep -- still inhabit the land.

Most of the homes are still intact, and recent renovations are set for Hightower Hall on of the largest buildings on the property.

Today, Historic Brattonsville is run by the Culture and Heritage Museum, which offers many reenactments, tours and educational events chronicling the day-to-day lives of colonial families and slaves. Recent performances include "By the Sweat of Our Brow" and "Black Fear, White Hope."

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