GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) – Spartanburg County has grown about 18% over the past decade. And similar double-digit growth has occurred in Greenville County, attracting not only new industries, but people as well. Some who are rethinking Thanksgiving celebrations.
Chief Executive William McClellan is feeling the pressure of the deadline.
“You have to get it right,” McClellan said. “It doesn’t matter who is on the guest list because everyone is VIP.”
And he’s used to being under pressure after decades of crafting menus for celebrities and presidential events.
“This list includes both President Bush – George H. and George W., and President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama,” McClellan said.
But there’s something about feeding 80 modern Pilgrims – a collective of strangers for Thanksgiving Day dinner.
“I don’t want to spoil this word,” he said.
Dinner at the Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens isn’t a feast for friends, it’s a feast for modern pilgrims. In a site that is both rich in heritage and welcoming, where conviviality is the main course.
“The truth is, we’re all pilgrims,” said Paul Abernathy, co-owner of the Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens. “No one comes out alive from their early childhood. We are all on a pilgrimage and we take different paths. This is a day when we can gather everyone in one place to do one thing.
To feast and fellowship at Clevedale, a bed and breakfast in Spartanburg, formerly a plantation established in the late 18th century and operated by the Cleveland family.
“I think it caught some people off guard,” said Pontheolla Abernathy, co-owner of Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens. “People would come to the door and knock, and I’d open the door and say, ‘hello’ – and sometimes (strangers) would say things like, ‘Are you Elizabeth’s daughter?’ or ‘How long have you worked here?’ And then I would say, I don’t work here, in that sense. It belongs to me.”
It was a plan that the stranger or the pilgrim had in his childhood.
“I’m a farmer,” Pontheolla said.
A farmer’s wife accustomed to dinner and Sunday hospitality together.
“Community gathering, and it was hospitality at its best,” she said.
And something on the former newscaster’s to-do list during her and Paul’s retirement years. In 2009, the couple was looking for a historic site with other amenities.
“We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway south,” Pontheolla said. “We wanted diversity, inclusion and a place that came and went. We (also) wanted to make sure it was affordable, quality healthcare. intellectual stimulation and of course an international airport.”
Bought in 2012, and after a year and a half of renovations, they opened Clevelale, offering a range of themed rooms and artifacts where many international travelers have stayed.
“We had guests from Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania and Italy,” Paul said.
And on Thanksgiving Day, they proudly open their doors to modern upstate pilgrims. A gesture linked to an old family story.
“The nearby train broke down (and Elizabeth Cleveland’s father) walked over to the train and invited passengers for tea,” Pontheolla said. “And I thought to myself that this place has always been a place of hospitality. So I continue this.
There’s symbolism in Clevelale, right down to the decor. On Thanksgiving Day, guest tables are lined with edible decorations and people are encouraged to take an item home and make something great out of it for others in the community.
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