York Town Square

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Wago Club prez: ‘You’ve gotta respect the (snapping) turtles’

This 750-pound snapping turtle dwarfs Mike Clancy, president of The Wago Club in East Manchester Township. Chainsaw artist Brad Heilman carved the 7-foot mascot from a white pine. Background posts: Big Conewago serves as physical, symbolic divider of York County culture, Church’s landmark: ‘A man named Beech carving a beech tree, it seemed too perfect’ and York-area woodcarver made life-size JFK statue. But where is it now?

The Wago Club brings together two popular parts of York County’s culture: The penchant for chainsaw-carved wooden statues and turtle soup.
Those tree-trunks-turned-into monuments are popping up around York County, as people and groups of people can’t part completely with their favorite enormous trees. Rutters has those carvings at the dairy’s Manchester Township headquarters. York Township’s Aldersgate United Methodist Church turned its copper beech into a carving and that wooden figure was later replaced with one made from cement.
Now the Wago Club might have the biggest one of all – celebrating its taste for snapping turtle soup… .

The Wago Club is about a 200-year-old private men’s club.The group donates funds, mainly from small games of chance, to local charities.
Turtle soup.
For years, the Yorktowne Hotel has served it. So has the Conewago Inn near Manchester. The Inn’s recipe is secret, as is the Wago Club’s.
But club members did give away part of their secret in a recent York Daily Record/Sunday News story. Trapping laws have made it necessary to bulk purchase the snapping turtle meat.
So some things in York County do change.
That story follows:

At about 750 pounds, Snapper Glen would yield enough meat for around 400 gallons of turtle soup.
If he were real, that is.
The 7-foot-tall mascot, carved from a local white pine by Conewago Township chainsaw artist Brad Heilman, has taken up residence at The Wago Club in East Manchester Township — a private club famous for its snapping- turtle soup.
Glenn Heilman, a snapping- turtle soup-making expert, has simmered countless batches of the dish.
But don’t expect him to give up the recipe.
“You’ve gotta respect the (snapping) turtles,” said Glenn Heilman of Pleasureville.
And he should know.
He’s trapped and cooked hundreds of the critters over the years in a broth mixed with onions, carrots, corn, instant mashed potatoes and a combination of spices.
Because of recent trapping laws, the club members said they now buy processed turtle meat from a licensed dealer.
But the method for cooking the soup has remained, Glenn Heilman said.
“You’ve gotta have a good recipe,” he said.
The club was founded about 200 years ago and has survived natural disasters such as Hurricane Agnes in 1972, said Mike Clancy, president of the organization which today has about 900 members.
“It’s one of the oldest clubs in the state,” he said.
Clancy said Snapper Glen stands a symbol of the Wago Club’s endurance.
“We went through a lot of hard times,” he said. “I’m proud of it. It’s just gonna be a representation of how united the club is.”