Local ice cream spots make summer sweeter

“Life is uncertain — eat dessert first.”
— Ernestine Ulmer.

Does this quote resonate with anyone? Life has not been normal since COVID-19 reared its ugly head, causing massive quarantines and economic instability. Ernestine Ulmer’s advice is timely, and summertime is the best time to enjoy a universally loved dessert — ice cream. I easily persuaded family members to “go glimmering,” our family’s nickname for a spontaneous adventure, and taste test the unique flavors of homemade ice cream in the Cape Fear region.

There are a plethora of commercial businesses where you can buy ice cream in our region — too many to list in here, so our emphasis was on homemade and hometown entrepreneurs who offer not only delicious ice cream but also a fun destination worth exploring. For this article, I chose three locations, each under an hour’s drive from downtown Fayetteville. Still, I felt guilty leaving out Sweet Frog, Baskin-Robbins, Cold Stone Creamery and the employer of teenage me — Dairy Queen. It was at DQ that I learned how to artistically twist the soft ice cream into a little curlicue on top of the cone and quickly dip it into the chocolate without dumping the whole confectionary treat.
On the road, our first adventure was to Gillis Hill Farm, which is always a fun family excursion. We visited on a “strawberry Saturday” where, in addition to getting delicious ice cream, we could also pick strawberries and purchase fresh produce, jams, jellies and honey. Before we even sampled the ice cream, we bought two baskets of berries and a round watermelon we tucked into our trunk. Children love visiting Gillis Hill Farm as there are animals and play areas sprinkled throughout the grounds. Farmers in this area since the 1700s, the most recent generation of the Gillis family has expanded into agritourism.

The ice cream shop was open during the quarantine but operated responsibly by requiring social distancing and allowing only one person at a time to order at the window. Instead of the usual perch on the porch rocking chairs, Gillis Hill Farm encouraged us, and all visitors, to enjoy treats in our cars. The homemade flavors vary — check their Facebook page to see what to expect during your visit. They offer cups, homemade waffle cones and pints you can take home. I sampled the strawberry, having just left the patch, and it was creamy and flavorful. My daughter tried the banana and found it oh so “a-peel-ing.”

Sunni Sky’s was our next day’s adventure, and it did not disappoint. Described as “ice cream heaven,” there are almost always over 120 flavors to choose from and a larger-than-life hot-pink ice cream cone statue to take a selfie by. In the past, they even had “hot” flavors — one famously named “cold sweat” that would cause partakers to break into one. Cheers to the employees, aka “inspectors” — per the stenciled titles on every worker’s shirt, who managed a two-car line up to keep fans fed and moving efficiently. My choice was a butterscotch bliss, my daughter had blue nerd, and my husband tried a double scoop of coffee. Bits of butterscotch provided extra sweetness, and the coffee choice smelled as good as it tasted. The blue nerd was colorful but excessively filled with nerds and a little too sugary.

We decided to “double-dip” our Sunday adventure and head to the nearby town of Coats to try the ice cream at Smith Farm. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the quarantine. We were excited to try their fresh fruit flavors and creamy ice cream but will have to plan another date to experience their offerings firsthand (and mouth). Their Facebook page promises wood churned ice cream, delicious shakes and root beer floats.

During the “shelter-at-home” days, some families invested in ice cream makers to make recipes from scratch. From low-cost hand-cranked models to speedier high-tech machines, anyone can create homemade cold and creamy treats. The magical transformation of the simple ingredients of fresh fruit, cream and sugar into ice cream enthralls both the young and the young at heart.

Make time to celebrate summer by making a batch of homemade ice cream or setting out on an excursion to one of these locally owned venues. The unique flavors, fresh ingredients and pride in craftsmanship will be your reward.

More homemade ice cream shops in and around Fayetteville

Gillis Hill Farm
2701 Gillis Hill Road
Fayetteville, N.C. 28306

Sunny Sky’s Homemade Ice Cream Inc.
8617 NC-55
Angier, N.C. 27501

Smith Farm
NC-55, Coats, N.C. 27521

Smallcakes: Cupcakery & Creamery
2132 Skibo Rd #114
Fayetteville, N.C. 28314

The Sweet Palette
101 Person St.
Fayetteville, N.C. 28301

The Coffee Scene
3818 Morganton Rd.


Independence day in the Sandhills

10 N1907P23004CThe Fourth of July in the Sandhills usually involves big crowds, free concerts, fireworks and more. This year, public safety concerns over COVID-19 have changed that. The sounds of the symphony orchestra won’t resound in Festival Park. Instead of Fort Bragg’s Parade Field filled with first-rate music and a salute to the flags from each state, the field will be empty. Fireworks may still be on the schedule, though. Learn more about the plans for Fort Bragg’s Independence Day celebration at https://bragg.armymwr.com/calendar/event/4th-july-celebration/3832248/23521.

Hope Mills Municipal Park won’t host its annual fireworks display this year until Ole Mill Days in October. In lieu of the Fourth of July event, the town is celebrating Independence Day with a Porch Parade from June 30-July 5. Residents and businesses are invited to decorate their porches and storefronts with their favorite red, white and blue décor. To sign up to be part of the Porch Parade, visit https://www.townofhopemills.com/349/July-4th-Celebration.

Celebrations will likely be smaller — more along the lines of intimate backyard barbeques. Perhaps as you’re firing up the grill, consider our nation’s beginnings. And try a tasty new burger recipe as well.

The history of America’s Independence Day

Few summertime holidays elicit as much excitement as the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day in the United States. Each year, family, friends and revelers anticipate the arrival of the holiday so they can host barbecues, enjoy the sun, listen to their favorite summertime tunes and commemorate the freedoms afforded by the monumental events that led to the holiday’s establishment.

 Independence Day became a federal holiday in 1941, but July 4th has stood as the birth of American independence for much longer. July 4th marks a pivotal moment in the American Revolution. According to PBS, the colonies were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament. “Taxation without representation” became a battle cry and was one of several grievances colonists had with Great Britain.

 Conflict between the colonies had been going on for at least a year before the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in June of 1776, says Military.com. On July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted in favor of independence from England. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence is an historic document drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer of the declaration writing committee charged with putting the colonies’ sentiments into words. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was one of the first people to present a resolution for American independence, and his commentary was the impetus for the formal Declaration of Independence. A total of 86 changes were made to Jefferson’s original draft until the final version was adopted. The signing of the document helped to solidify independence, and eventually lead to the formation of the United States of America.

A total of 56 delegates signed the document. Although John Hancock’s signature is the largest, it did not hold more weight than the other signatures. Rather, rumor has it, Hancock signed it so large so that the “fat, old King could read it without his spectacles.” However, the National Archives said it was also customary that, since Hancock was the president of the Continental Congress, he be the first person to sign the document centered below the text.

The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence on July 6, 1776. The first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square on July 8, 1776.

Take your Fourth of July burgers up a notch

The year 2020 is one few people will soon forget. Life changed dramatically and perhaps forever in 2020, when the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 forced billions of people across the globe to make sacrifices to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus.

The sacrifices made in response to COVID-19 are perhaps most noticeable on holidays, when people accustomed to gathering with family and friends were unable to do so, or only able to do so on limited terms.

Despite those restrictions, people continued to celebrate on holidays like Easter and Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July does not figure to be any different. Fourth of July celebrations often take place in the backyard by the grill, and this year marks a perfect opportunity to expand your culinary repertoire. This recipe for “Best Burger With Blue Cheese Butter,” courtesy of Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath’s “Grilling” (DK Publishing) offers a new take on a backyard barbecue staple.

Best Burger With Blue Cheese Butter
Serves 4
1 pound ground chuck steak
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 1-inch slices blue cheese butter (see below)
4 sesame hamburger buns, halved

Combine ground steak with salt and pepper. Divide into four equal-sized pieces and gently shape into four burgers about 1-inch-thick. Grill burgers and warm buns according to instructions below. Top burgers with butter and serve hot in sesame buns.

 Outdoor cooking: Grill over hot coals for three minutes per side for rare, four minutes per side for medium-rare, or five minutes per side for well done. Place buns cut-side down on grill until warm and lightly golden, 1 minute.

 Indoor cooking: Preheat a ridged cast-iron grill pan over high heat. Cook for three minutes per side for rare, four minutes per side for medium-rare, or five minutes per side for well done. Place buns cut-side down on grill pan until warm lightly golden, 1 minute.

Blue-Cheese Butter
Makes 15 servings
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 ounces (1 cup crumbled) blue cheese
2 teaspoons black pepper

Place ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until well blended. Wrap in foil. Place in the freezer until hard, about 45 minutes.

To serve, roll back foil and cut into 1-inch slices. When slicing from frozen, warm the knife under hot water first. After slicing, always tightly rewrap the unused flavored butter roll in the foil before returning to the refrigerator or freezer.

Best Burger Variations

Herbed Burger: Add 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried thyme, 1 crushed garlic clove and 1 tablespoon finely chopped onion to the ground steak.

Spicy Burger: Add 1-2 teaspoon tabasco, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard to the ground steak.

Think ahead: Shape burgers up to one day in advance. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Cook’s Note: Overhandling the meat when shaping will result in a tough, dry burger. To guarantee a juicy burger, handle the meat as little as possible.  

Hay Street Live features Kiari Mhoon

07 khiarimhoons Quarantine may seem to be winding down, but the need for social distancing remains. In the past few months, the quarantine brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that personal connections are a vital part of daily living. Without them, the world seems a little bleak. In response to this need for connection with others, the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County joined forces with artists of all disciplines to host Hay Street Live Virtual Jam Session. It is a bright spot in a trying situation and something to look forward to each week.

Using modern technology, the Arts Council is bridging the gap by hosting a series of virtual events every Friday, at 6 p.m., through live streaming on Facebook.

While the concept of time may be altered due to the quarantines, the attempt to reach some kind of normalcy is vital to mental health and maintaining relationships. Whether it seems real or not, spring has sprung, and Memorial Day is in the rearview mirror. Summer has officially begun. Aren’t we all ready for some fun? May 29, performer Kiari Mhoon will be featured on Hay Street Live Virtual Jam Session to kick off summer with some smooth R&B and pop tunes.
Although he’s young, 21-year-old Mhoon has performed for many years, starting his foray into entertainment right after he learned to walk and continuing to today. Originally from Arkansas, his family settled in Tennessee, where he attended high school and performed in school plays, the choir and madrigals, as well as small group ensembles and solo performances. During his time in the Army, Mhoon played the lead in the “ U.S. Army Soldier Show” and sang the national anthem at several events and ceremonies.

After winning a contest held by Universal Records, Mhoon took his group “Versatile” on a nightclub tour. In 2017, he released his first album, “24 Hours,” under his independent label, Mhoon Records. This was followed by a second album, “All I Want,” in 2019.

This week, Mhoon, who is influenced by artists such as Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and Beyonce, will perform for the Fayetteville community, so get ready to groove. According to Mhoon, listeners can expect to hear “songs from his albums, along with songs that have inspired me in some way.”

“Kiari is an immensely talented vocalist, and he also performs in the 82nd Airborne Band,” stated Metoya Scott, public relations manager for the Arts Council. She continued, “While this may not be the same experience as seeing Kiari perform live, it will still be very entertaining” for those who attend.

In closing, Scott acknowledged how the Hay Street Live program has grown since it started. “The Arts Council is grateful (for) the amount of participation we’ve received for Hay Street Live, and we are looking forward to more performances to come,” she said.

To view Kiari Mhoon this Friday, and for performances going forward, visit www.theartscouncil.com, www.wearethearts.com, or check out Facebook @TheArtsCouncilFAY to view the upcoming virtual concerts.

Art and music bigger than life

09 01 sizemattersIt might seem like the world has come to a standstill the past few months, but the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County has not. As more and more businesses and organizations open in the coming months, look for new exhibits and happenings downtown. In the meantime, the online energy is strong here, and the Arts Council continues to provide first-rate art and entertainment options. Currently, two programs that have met with much success are the online exhibit, “Size Matters: Works that Push the Scale of Dimensions,” and the Hay Street Live performance series.

Hay Street Live is a weekly event that typically includes a host/hostess — sometimes more than one — and a performer. The earlier versions of the event also included a local mixologist to showcase his or her signature drink. “Our viewers have spoken, and they love the music,” said Scott. “We’ve received several requests to extend the show from viewers who can’t get enough of this virtual jam session. So, we’ve elected to extend the musicians playtime by removing the mixology section. Now it’s all about the arts. The performer will have more time to share their artistry with their virtual fans.”

09 02 hay street liveJune 19, don’t miss the Hay Street Live performance of Dan 64. This is a returning band from one of the earlier shows in April. The host will be Sweet Tea, host of “The Sweet Tea Show” found on Carolina Country 100.1 FM and Carolina Country 93.9 FM.

The June 26 band will be a Fayetteville favorite — 80s Unplugged. The band celebrates all the goodness and quirkiness of the 1980s, including Rubic’s cube, Swatch watches, Members Only jackets, skinny ties, Vans checkerboard shoes, guys with mullets and girls with Camaro hair, but especially the music.

Goldy of WFNC 640 AM’s “Good Morning Fayettevillle” will host the show.

Starting in July, Hay Street Live will move to Thursdays. Whiskey Pines Band will perform July 2. The Arts Council’s Metoya Scott will host the event.

“Size Matters” opened on April 24 and remains accessible online through June 25. “Size Matters,” as the name implies, is all about scale. The exhibition encourage(s) artists to experiment with scale. The artwork represents recognizable objects that have undergone a disorientating shift in size. The show was originally set to open April 24 and was shifted to an online event due to COVID-19 restrictions on group gatherings.

The exhibit, gives visitors an opportunity to experience a virtual version of the show. Additionally, all 44 pieces, which represent the works of 31 artists, are available for purchase.

It includes artists with followings that span the globe. “My viewership is all over the world,” said pictorial artists David Pickett. “With this exhibition, I’ll gain 10 times the exposure and have greater visibility. My friends and family that are out of state can’t always visit the gallery. Now they all can.” Pickett, a resident of Shallotte, North Carolina, has two pieces featured in the exhibition.

Another feature of the exhibition is “Palette Talk.” “’Palette Talk’ was an intimate, authentic, unguarded conversation that occurred between two artists featured in our ‘Size Matters’ exhibition and facilitated by myself,” said Metoya Scott, public relations manager for the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County. “During the show, I encourage viewers to ask the artists questions and acknowledge them for their contribution to enhancing visual arts experiences not only in Cumberland County but worldwide through our virtual exhibition. … I had the opportunity to speak with the artists one on one about how they fell in love with art, what inspires them to create, and why they submitted to our exhibition. Artists hailed from Miami, Florida, to Iowa City, Iowa, and, of course, sprinkled all across the Carolinas.”

One of Fayetteville’s best-loved perennial exhibits follows “Size Matters.” Celebrating its 15th year, the “Public Works” Exhibition Aug. 28 and runs through Oct. 17 at the Arts Council. This really is the people’s exhibit. There is no jury.

“’Public Works’ is a communitywide art exhibit sponsored by the Fayetteville Public Works Commission,” said Scott. “This is an opportunity for all artists of all ages to have their work exhibited … at the Arts Council.

“Who’s eligible? You are, if you live in Bladen, Cumberland, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Moore, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, and Scotland Counties or Fort Bragg or Pope Field.

“Bring your artwork to The Arts Council, 301 Hay St., between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday, August 14, or on Saturday, August 15, between noon to 4 pm.”

There will be a People’s Choice award.

August 28-31 the public is invited to vote for their favorites. The artwork with the most votes be featured on the Arts Council’s Facebook page for a Virtual Vote. A photographer will be present the day of Art in-take to capture the artwork; each entry will be uploaded to the “Public Works” Exhibition App, managed by the Arts Council. Voting will be available via the app. Winners will enjoy a prize pack full of unique items from downtown businesses, according to the Arts council website. Winners of the online Virtual Vote will get an Arts Council goody bag.

Find out more about these and the many other initiatives at the Arts Council at theartscouncil.com.


Celebrate Fayetteville with Hay Street Live and Virtual 4th Friday

09 01 magicianThe Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County presents Hay Street Live: A Virtual Jam Session, every Friday, from 6-7 p.m., streaming live through Facebook.

“Hay Street Live is a virtual jam session that is streamed live through our Facebook account, which is at Facebook.com/TheArtsCouncilFay,” said Metoya Scott, public relations manager of the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County. “It gives our community a chance to connect with local artists from North Carolina and comment and party in the house.”

It’s a fun and entertaining way to support and showcase local talent, but with a twist! For each show, the Arts Council invites a mixologist from a local restaurant to share their favorite mixed drinks with the audience and to share the secrets of how to make a perfect cocktail. Often, the drink recipes are original recipes or modern interpretations of classics. The audience gets a new recipe and insight on the science of beverage making, and businesses and mixologists get some exposure — it’s a win-win.

The entertainment lineup varies from week to week. Last week, soulful singer Leme Nolan of Beaufort, North Carolina, entertained Fayetteville audiences by belting out covers of pieces by Erykah Badu, Mary J. Blige and SWV, in addition to performing her original work, “Love with a Ring Attached.” 

The week before that, it was the All-American rock group, The Guy Unger Band — the ultimate “light up your life” party band that really knows how
to rock.

Coming up on the Virtual Hay Street Live program this Friday, May 22, is another local top-notch Carolina rock band known from the mountains to the coast, Rivermist. Voted the 2018 and 2019 Best Band in Fayetteville by Up & Coming Weekly readers,  Rivermist has been performing up and down the East Coast since 2014, although the band members have performed together for decades. According to Greg Adair, founding member and manager of Rivermist, they love working locally, especially when supporting the Arts Council, historic downtown Fayetteville and the military. He’s proud of the band’s motto: "Ain't No Party Like A #rivermistparty cause a Rivermist Party Don't Stop!"

The band did not feel right about accepting donations or tips during Hay Street Live for their personal use because of the circumstances of the virtual event, but there will be a link to the Dr. Susan Love Foundation for Breast Cancer Research should people decide to donate on behalf of the band.

Rivermist hopes to replicate the feeling of a live performance. “We figured what we’d do is set up several cameras — we've got a system that we’re going to try to use," Adair explained. "We’re going to try to do a full stage, lights, everything show. I know it’s going to be more work and a lot more tech involved, but people have waited this long for it.”

 Adair hopes that people will interact with the band online while the event is streaming and even make requests.

Hosted by Bill Bowman, publisher of the Up & Coming Weekly newspaper, he will introduce the evening’s official guest mixologist, Joseph “BEAR” Dewberry, owner of On After Bar & Grub. BEAR will introduce viewers to two of his favorite signature summer drinks — "Bear’s Southern Peach" and the "Hot Head."

In addition, Hay Street Live introduces Jeremy Ruis, a young Fayetteville-born magician who has been making magic an art since he was 7 years old. Watch closely. Jeremy brings fun, wonder and amazement everywhere he goes.

Since the arrival of COVID-19, the Arts Council’s in-person events have been canceled, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops. “During this uncertain time, we want to give people a way to connect and still be entertained,” said Scott. “We recently had to cancel an exhibition, and the artist donated the money that they paid to have their art exhibited back to the Arts Council. That really warmed our hearts, so we wanted to do something to promote our artists — so we started doing Hay Street Live.”

Scott added that because COVID-19 has impacted so many artists, the Arts Council wanted to give them a platform to continue to share their artistry while engaging people at home with high-quality entertainment. With a little creative thinking, it didn’t take long to come up with something different and entertaining to look forward to every Friday night.

“Please join us by streaming — and interact by asking the band, bartender or host questions,” said Scott. “This event allows you to have a really
good time.”

There is a page on the Arts Council’s website for bands or artists to apply to perform. The performer for Hay Street Live on May 29 will be Kiari Moon. Viewers can send a virtual tip to the performer by visiting www.wearethearts.com. Visit www.theartscouncil.com for more information.

09 02 RivermistVirtual 4th Friday

The excitement doesn't stop when Hay Street Live ends. In a typical month, Fayetteville citizens could look forward to walking the streets of downtown Fayetteville, perusing local businesses, looking at art, hearing great music and participating in events for the Cool Spring Downtown District’s 4th Friday event. Although little has been typical recently, CSDD has been working  hard to provide the same level of entertainment and fun that locals look forward to every month but all available through handy technology. From 7-8 p.m., visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1131937423837143/ to see a livestreamed Virtual 4th Friday.

"We want to help our downtown community during this time, and virtual 4th Friday is one of the few ways we can do that … 4th Friday is another thing people can experience from the comfort of their own homes but also be directed to a website with downtown businesses that are currently open," explained Lauren Falls, the marketing and events director for CSDD. "We want to do that because we not only want to support our downtown community but give back during this time. Virtual 4th Fridays are one of the few ways we can do that."

If you loved Rivermist's music for Hay Street Live, they will be back for an encore performance for the 4th Friday live stream. In addition to the live music, Matthew Mercer will create some new art during the stream. Mercer has an impressive resume. In his 20-year career, he has illustrated three books, drawn a family portrait of NFL Hall-of-Famer Emmit Smith of the Dallas Cowboys and his family and even been invited to the White House, where he drew a family portrait for President Barack Obama. In addition to these impressive achievements, Mercer has drawn over 20,000 caricatures between working as an artist at Walt Disney World and his own business.

"I think virtual events are important for the community not just to have something to do, but the way we try to do our 4th Friday event is to try to encourage people to shop, eat, and support local," Falls said.

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