Return to normalcy: Organizers plan Ice Cream Social for July 30-31
Last year, what would have been the 35th annual Berryville Ice Cream Social was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, with new cases waning and vaccines readily available, event organizers have begun making plans to bring the community celebration back.
Committee chairman Ken Wingate said it was time to try and get back a bit of normalcy.
“It’s really important,” Wingate said. “I mean, this has been one of the big social events in Berryville for 35 years. Last year, it was heartbreaking that we couldn’t have it. So we’re looking forward to having an event that everybody can get out and go to. We know there’s a lot of pent-up demand to get out and do things, so we’re hoping to kind of satisfy that.”
Dean Lee, a Berryville native who was introduced as the new executive director of the Greater Berryville Area Chamber of Commerce earlier this month, said having an experienced hand on the helm is a blessing.
“I’ve been here before and I’ve been here after it, but I’ve never been here actually during it,” said Lee, who hasn’t lived in Berryville for 45 years despite frequent visits to family. “Through all the years, I said, ‘Well, I’m going to go this year,’ and something would pop up so I never could hit my schedule. I know a little bit since I’ve been here as far as what’s going on, and I’m learning more. The main thing I can tell you is, I’m just delighted we struck gold, that Ken has stepped up to take the chair. He’s the perfect person to do it just because of his history. He’s proven to be a go-getter already.”
Wingate, a former chamber board president, said one of the objectives of the annual event is to draw visitors to Berryville’s downtown square.
“We’d like to get people onto the square,” Wingate said. “The square has gone through a lot of changes over the years as far as retail aspect and getting people to come to the square, spend time there and get familiar with the historical museum and the different merchants on the square — it’s important to the town and to the chamber.”
Visitors familiar with the Ice Cream Social shouldn’t notice many changes this year, Wingate said, aside from one major adjustment — the date. This year’s event is being planned for Friday and Saturday, July 30-31, more than a month later than in previous years, when it was typically scheduled for the second weekend in June.
“I don’t suspect there’ll be a whole lot different,” Wingate said, “but we hope to kind of emulate what we did in 2019 and bring in some some good talent for entertainment, and then, hopefully have as many vendors as we can get on the square. We’re not going to try to rebuild the whole event. We’re going to go with kind of what we had in the past.”
Wingate said the date change for this year will give the committee a little more time to get everything coordinated.
“Last year was just an off year for everybody, so we weren’t able to get our feet running like we did the previous year,” Wingate said. “We try to start early and we’ve been doing it long enough that a lot of the systems are kind of in place and we just kind of go with what we’ve done in the previous years. There’s a lot of planning involved. There’s a lot that has to be put together to make the thing happen.”
Both Lee and Wingate agreed that the new date might make for a hotter weekend than the regular dates, but they’re keeping that in mind during the planning stages.
“In 2019, the weather was perfect,” Wingate said. “I suspect it’ll be a little warm this year because we’re doing it at the end of July, but you’ve got ice cream and we’ve got lots of kids’ cooling activities.”
The main thing, Wingate said, is trying to ensure everyone has a good time.
“Mostly what we want to see is people from Berryville turn out and have a good time,” Wingate said. “The main thing is that plenty of people come out and have a good time and get familiar with the square. And we’d like to see them going into the merchants on the square and just enjoying themselves.”
Lee said more details about this year’s event will be forthcoming as the planning continues.
“We’re developing the committees right now,” Lee said, “the sponsorship committee and the vendors committee and the entertainment committee.”
Lee and Wingate said the pandemic is still on their minds as they make plans, but they hope that the event will represent the start of things returning to normal, especially as more residents get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
“We’re hoping that by then that the herd immunity will have kicked in and people will have their shots,” Wingate said. “Certainly if numbers are on the rise or whatever, then we’re going to have to react accordingly. We will go ahead and be health-conscious regardless. We will have sanitary wipes, and [we might] be still wearing masks and will probably not group our chairs right next to one another.
“We’ll have to be conscious of it, but we’re hoping that by then we have low enough numbers that we don’t have to be afraid of it, we just have to be conscious of it.”