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Former plantation, Clevelale offers 'feast for modern pilgrims'

Former plantation, Clevelale offers ‘feast for modern pilgrims’

GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) – Spartanburg County has grown by approximately 18% over the last decade. And similar double-digit growth has happened in Greenville County, attracting not only new industries, but people. Some who are rethinking Thanksgiving celebrations.

Executive chief William McClellan is feeling the pressure on deadline.

“You’ve got to get it right,” McClellan said. “It doesn’t matter who’s on the guest list because everybody’s VIP.”

And he’s accustomed to being under pressure after decades crafting menus for celebrity and presidential events.

“That list includes both President Bush’s — 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 mess that word up,” he said.

Dinner at Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens is not a Friendsgiving, it’s a feast for modern pilgrims. At a site that’s both rich in heritage and hospitality, where fellowship is the main course.

“The truth is we’re all pilgrims,” said Paul Abernathy, Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens co-owner. “Nobody gets out of early life alive. All of us are on a pilgrimage and we go different paths. This is one day we can bring everyone together in one place to do one thing.”

To feast and fellowship at Clevelale, a Spartanburg bed and breakfast, that previously served as a plantation established in the late 18th century operated by the Cleveland family.

“I think it took some people off guard,” said Pontheolla Abernathy, Clevedale Historic Inn and Gardens co-owner. “People would come to the door and would knock, and I would open the door and say, ‘hello’ – and sometimes (strangers) would say things like, ‘Are you Elizabeth’s girl?’ or ‘How long have you worked here?’ And then I would say, I don’t work here, in that sense. I own it.”

It was a plan the out-of-towner, or pilgrim had as a child.

“I’m a farmgirl,” Pontheolla said.

A farmgirl accustomed to communal Sunday dinner and hospitality.

“Gathering of community, and it was hospitality at its finest,” she said.

And something on the former newscaster’s bucket list, during her and Paul’s retirement years. In 2009, the couple were on the hunt for a historic site that offered other amenities.

“We drove the Blue Ridge Parkway south,” Pontheolla said. “We wanted diversity, integration, and a place that was up and coming. We (also) wanted to make sure that it was affordable, good healthcare. intellectual stimulation and of course an international airport.”

Purchased in 2012, and after a year-and-a-half of renovations, they opened Clevedale, offering an array of themed rooms and artifacts where many international travelers have stayed.

“We’ve had guests from Brazil, Mexico, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania and Italy,” Paul said.

And on Thanksgiving Day, they proudly open their doors to the modern pilgrims in the Upstate. A gesture linked to an old family story.

“The train nearby broke down (and Elizabeth Cleveland’s) dad walked to the train and invited passengers in for tea,” Pontheolla said. “And I thought to myself, this place has always been a place of hospitality. So, I continue that.”

There’s symbolism at Clevdale, down to the setting. On Thanksgiving Day guest’s dinner tables are garnished with edible decorations, and people are encouraged to take an item home and make something great for others in the community.

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