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Cold comfort: Festival beats the heat with ice cream

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Jacob Walters, 2, and Jace Walters, 4, enjoy their ice cream at the Ice Cream Festival at Simply Natural Creamery on July 20, 2019.

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Andie Smiley

Sunday, July 21, 2019

With the heat index hovering at 105 degrees on Saturday, keeping cool was most people's top priority.

Running fans or hunkering down anywhere with air conditioning were two options for beating the heat. But an Ayden business offered a simply natural solution for chilling out:

Eat more ice cream.

Simply Natural Creamery held its third annual Ice Cream Festival on Saturday at its Jersey Farm location outside of Ayden.

The festival, held in part to celebrate World Ice Cream Day on June 21, featured three different points of sale for their products: two buildings and an ice cream truck that was placed close to the center of the festival.

The event also featured activities like pony rides, miniature train rides and face painting.

The allure of fresh ice cream — Simply Natural make its own milk, butter and ice cream right on the farm — drew customers to its relatively secluded store. It also provided an opportunity for other local businesses to present their products and services to the community.

“The ice cream festival is just a way for us to help local businesses,” events organizer Natalie Aynes said. “Most of them here are small businesses, and they don’t have the funds for a lot of advertising, so this is a really good way to get a lot of people from the community here at one event where local businesses can show what they have to offer.”

More than 65 vendors were present at this year’s festival, ranging from Gayle Tripp, whose family runs a small farm as a hobby, to Kathleen Hunter, who owns three businesses and advertises one of them with her table at the event.

“I’ve been here at this stand since the beginning,” Hunter said, adding that she appreciates the opportunity the festival gives to showcase her jewelry business, Paparazzi Accessories.

Tripp’s family business, Happy T Farms, was invited for the first time this year, as Simply Natural continues to expand the event and the number of businesses that it represents.

“We were asked if we wanted to come out here and had several other people suggest it,” Tripp said. “We’ve had a lot of questions, a lot of curious people about goat’s milk.”

Goat’s milk is one of the primary ingredients in her goods, alongside herbs and honey produced on her farm. Tripp said that she likes being able to answer questions about her products and how they’re made.

“I think it’s a great way for people to bring out their kids and get introduced to the market and to natural things," she said.

The festival also supports Hope of Glory Ministries, which manned have a table outside of Simply Natural’s main building and accepted donations to its co-op grocery store. People who donated canned goods to the ministry received a discount on their ice cream purchases.

Hope of Glory aims to help families support themselves without financial assistance from the government, and asks them to pay a monthly fee in return for shopping at the co-op grocery store for lower prices than most commercial markets.

The ministry then assigns a volunteer adviser to help the family use grocery savings to pay off debts.

Hope of Glory has partnered with Simply Natural since the first Ice Cream Festival. The creamery also provides milk for the ministry's co-op.

For Hope of Glory, the publicity and donations received were welcome gifts.

“Each item that is donated saves us about $1.75,” Hope of Glory Executive Director Mandi Stewart said. “That money is obviously used for other items for the co-op grocery store, so when people donate at this festival that helps us re-allocate the money to other quality items that may be toiletries, paper towels, things like that.

"It’s always exciting to have that extra support from the community at large," Stewart said.

Simply Natural officials said that the relationship is mutually beneficial.

“It’s just neat that we can come together and help those in the community,” Aynes said. “They’ve been a part of it now for the last couple years, and it’s always been efficient for them because people bring canned goods, and then that gives them a discount on ice cream so that helps us both out.”

The heat advisory that eastern North Carolina has been under for the past few days might have caused organizers to sweat a bit about attendance, but Pitt County residents seemed willing to brave the blazing sun for ice cream fun.

“We grew up on a farm,” attendee Rene Minyard said of herself and other local resident Paula Carter. “We tolerate it.”

Aynes said that the heat has actually been good for Simply Natural as an ice cream business.

“It’s been pretty hot but that just makes the ice cream taste that much better,” Aynes said. “We have a lot of loyal customers who still come out here.”

The festival had lines for both its vendors and other attractions. Some vendors took advantage of the temperature to sell snow cones, lemonade, and other cold treats.

The staple of the festival, however, has always been Simply Natural Creamery's ice cream, which draws bigger crowds every year, heat advisory or not.

 

FROZEN FAVORITES

Today is National Ice Cream day and the Greenville area is replete with places to seek a frozen treat. Here is a sampling of favorites:

Simply Natural

Who they are: A creamery based at a dairy farm in Greene County. They get all of their cream from their farm, then use the proceeds from the creamery and merchandise to support the farm in return.

What they serve: Ice cream, milk, cream, chocolate milk and milkshakes

Why it's good: The cream at their main facility comes from a farm right outside, giving each menu item a fresh and natural taste.

Unusual and unique: The Simply Natural creamery is a local dairy farm on the outskirts of Ayden, and they regularly offer tours and other activities at their main facility so that customers can learn about the process and be sure that their frozen treats are ethically and sustainably produced. The name reflects their philosophy — the Moye family wanted their cows to be raised in a natural environment, and grows the cows’ food on the same farm where they’re raised, keeping the process local every step of the way.

How to find them: Their creamery is at 1265 Carson Edwards Road in Ayden, but their new Greenville location can be found at 317 East Arlington Boulevard, next to My Sister’s Closet.

SweetFrog

Who they are: A national frozen yogurt chain with nine locations in the Eastern North Carolina area.

What they serve: Frozen yogurt and sorbet

Why it's good: Frozen yogurt is a little smoother than ice cream and a little less sweet, so you can add more toppings without getting too much sugar.

Unusual and unique: SweetFrog is the dominant frozen yogurt chain in Greenville, outlasting Brrrberry and others after frozen yogurt’s initial surge of popularity, and the company offers over 80 potential frozen yogurt flavors that a store can serve (though each location only serves a few at a time). Many of these flavors have no sugar added, and they also offer dairy-free sorbet.

How to find them: They're at 740 S.E. Greenville Blvd., between McAlistair’s and Your Perfect Cake.

Coldstone

Who they are: A national chain with dozens of locations across North Carolina. Their name comes from the granite slab on which they mix ice cream.

What they serve: Ice cream, cakes, cupcakes, milkshakes, and pies

Why it's good: Coldstone’s ice cream is very smooth, and they hand-mix it well with other ice cream and candy to create entirely new flavors.

Unusual and unique: In addition to ice cream, Coldstone sells over 15 different ice cream cakes from a freezer in-store and many others, like birthday cakes or custom designed cakes, can be ordered for later pickup. They also sell ice cream cupcakes (served in chocolate ‘wrappers’) and ice cream cookie sandwiches.

How to find them: Greenville’s only Coldstone is at 518 S.E. Greenville Blvd., next to Jos. A Bank and Newt’s.

Pelican Snoballs

Who they are: A New Orlean’s inspired chain with 160 and counting locations, mostly along the East Coast.

What they serve: Snowballs, New Orleans Style

Why it's good: New Orleans style snowballs are fluffier and lighter than snow cones, with the ice ground much more finely.

Unusual and unique: They offer over 100 different flavors for their shaved ice, including caramel, dill pickle, and toothpaste, and each store has its own additional flavors served alongside the standard. They also have gluten-free and sugar-free flavors, and cream can be added to any flavor to make a new combination. The unusual flavors and sheer number of them create a unique experience every time!

How to find them: Pelican has two Greenville locations, one at 4601 East 10th St. and the other at 1122 S.E. Greenville Blvd.

Kona Ice

Who they are: A national company, with snow cone trucks that can be rented for specific events to help fundraise or just serve a frozen treat on a hot day.

What they serve: Snow cones

Why it's good: The Kona Ice truck serves the shaved ice, and lets customers pour in their own syrup at no additional charge for difference flavor choices, allowing anyone to create any combination with as much or as little flavor as they’d like.

Unusual and unique: Kona Ice regularly partners with school clubs or individual classrooms to fundraise for events and supplies. They’ve raised a total of more than $62 million through their partnerships, and they donate a portion of the proceeds for their color changing cups to their Adopt-A-Classroom program.

How to find them: Kona Ice trucks don’t have a permanent location, but can be ordered through making an inquiry at www.konaice.com or calling 252-320-KONA.

Sparky’s Snowballs

Who they are: A local snowball truck that’s served the Greenville area for more than 20 years.

What they serve: Snowballs and ice cream

Why it's good: Finely shaved ice combined with ice cream and other cream pour-overs creates a one-of-a-kind experience.

Unusual and unique: Aside from their usual syrups, Sparky’s offers a several unique combinations that incorporate cream, like the Snow Cream, the Peaches n Cream, the Strawberry Shortcake, and the Dreamsicle. As a business local to Eastern North Carolina, they also offer a special Purple Gold Fever snow cone in support of the Pirates, and ‘stuffed’ snowballs with ice cream inside.

How to find them: The Sparky’s truck has a permanent location at 611 S.E. Greenville Blvd., right outside of Big Lots, and finds the crowd at the Town Common and other hot spots.

Baskin Robbins

Who they are: A chain that claims to be the nation’s largest ice cream chain, with over 7,500 locations across the U.S.

What they serve: Ice cream, coffee, sundaes, sorbet, yogurt, and smoothies

Why it's good: A wide variety of desserts and flavors combines with a long history of making ice cream makes Baskin Robbins reliably delicious, no matter what special tastes you might have.

Unusual and unique: Baskin Robbins now offers sundaes, from the classic banana split to even a Demogorgon sundae for Netflix’s Stranger Things fans. They also serve coffee, floats, milkshakes, parfaits, smoothies, and brownies warmed to order, creating an ice cream shop experience that extends far beyond just ice cream.

How to find them: Baskin Robbins’ Greenville location is at 1885 E. Fire Tower Road, across from Arby’s and next to CVS.

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