This Annual Thanksgiving Feast Has Fed 400 Guests for the Better Part of a Century
Every year since some time around World War II, the Damon Hunt Club in Darlington, South Carolina, has hosted what The Post and Courier recently referred to as one of the largest private Thanksgiving gatherings in the state.
The Coxe family has owned the thousands of acres of swampy hunting grounds along the Pee Dee River for more than a century. It was Tom Coxe who set up the Damon Hunt Club there in the 1930s as a place for his friends to bring their hounds on Saturdays and holidays.
According to longtime club member Bill Bristow, legend has it that the men’s wives weren’t too happy about them choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving that way, so they came up with a compromise.
“The men would get the ladies to bring a dish,” Bristow told The Post and Courier. And the men could still have their hunt.
From there on out, Thanksgiving would be brought to them. And so, a tradition was born, and every year since, the Damon Hunt Club has hosted a Thanksgiving picnic for its members and their families, drawing 400 people annually. And even though the hunt stopped in the 1960s, the picnic lives on.
“It became the custom that once you’re invited, you become a permanent guest,” Bristow explained.
Today, Tom Coxe’s son Ricky is the unofficial captain of the event. There are no invitations or reminders. Attendees know the meal starts at 1 p.m. and to bring enough food to feed everyone in their group. Guests are also expected to bring their own beverages as well as anything else they might need to chow down—plates and chairs included.
On Thursday morning, the club’s 43 members arrive to arrange the three long tables that hold all of the holiday food. It might not look like a magazine spread, Bristow’s wife Polly noted, but they always manage to fit all of the dishes.
Getting to the Damon Hunt Club involves a bumpy dirty road, and oftentimes a muddy walk to the picnic. Without any kind of real organization, people simply bring “what they’re known for,” Obie Stokes, who always arrives the night before Thanksgiving to fire his cooker, told the paper. This year Stokes said his cooker will hold 25 pounds of sausage, eight Boston butts, and four hams.
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The whole thing is rustic, to say the least. It’s not for everyone, but Stokes wouldn’t change a thing.
“Seems like there are fewer and fewer traditions, and I cling to traditions,” he told The Post and Courier.