Sunday, December 4, 2022

31-year July 4 tradition comes back to town, thanks to Williamsburg Kiwanis

The Wren Yard. (WYDaily/File photo)
The Wren Yard. (WYDaily/File photo)

Five years ago, a longtime Williamsburg event — a family-friendly staple on the Fourth of July — shuddered to a halt.

Since 1983, the Auxiliary of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Hospital hosted the Fourth of July Ice Cream Social, bringing ice cream, children’s games, raffles and live music to the yard of the Wren Building at William & Mary.

Then, after 31 years in 2014, the auxiliary stopped hosting it.

Years of tradition can only lay dormant for so long. The Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg is taking up the mantle this year, bringing back the decades-old ice cream social with the help of a few community partners.

“Everyone we’ve told about it has been exhilarated,” said Gary Ripple, executive director for advancement for the Kiwanis Club of Williamsburg.

Like the 31 Sentara Auxiliary ice cream socials before it, this year’s event will include hot dogs, ice cream, soda and water. There will also be children’s activities such as face painting, balloon animals, cornhole and a clown.

A raffle will include items such as golf outings, William & Mary football tickets and a collection of jewelry from Williamsburg Jewelers.

RELATED STORY: New jewelry store in Williamsburg plans to put community first

The Michael Clark Band from Norfolk will play from the steps of the Wren Building at the event, which runs from 4-7 p.m. — rain or shine.

The old-fashioned, small-town ice cream social fits in with the Williamsburg Economic Development Authority’s “Americana-themed” Fourth of July plans, which call for a hot air balloon, an egg toss popcorn for a nickel and more.

On June 12, the EDA voted to give the Kiwanis Club $2,500 toward its ice cream social.

Ripple hopes the event will bring locals back into the Historic Area and promote community and inclusion.

“Primarily, a lot of local residents don’t visit Colonial Williamsburg or Merchants Square,” Ripple said. “I think the sense is that that’s for the tourists, that’s for people who have greater resources… We have good old-fashioned down-home folks who enjoy being together, hearing the music and celebrating the important holiday.”

At the EDA meeting, Ripple said the cash would help with “infrastructure” rentals, including tents, coolers and freezers for food and ice cream, tables and chairs and more.

In addition to the money from the EDA, Chesapeake Wealth Management is the primary sponsor for the event.

Ripple said the event will again be held in the Wren Yard in the spirit of tradition.

The Kiwanis Club has been working to bring back the ice cream social for a couple years, but couldn’t hold the event for July 4, 2018 because there was ongoing archaeological work at the site.

“For the past four or five years, it has represented a hole in the summer social schedule in the Williamsburg community,” Ripple said. “It was very popular.”

Ripple said the event aims to be affordable for families; while dining in downtown can exceed $70 or $80, Ripple said families of four could get a comparable amount of food for around $32.

Event tickets cost $10 apiece, but can be bought ahead of time for $8 each.

Food prices include:

  • Hot dog: $2.50
  • Ice cream: $3
  • Water or soda: $2
  • Cake $2.50

The event will be run by about 50 volunteers, some of which are Kiwanis Club members. Anyone can volunteer to help, Ripple said.

Sodexo, the contracted company that managed William & Mary’s dining facilities, is working with the Kiwanis Club and allowing them to store their food in their refrigerators and freezers, Ripple said. Sodexo is also providing portable restrooms.

Proceeds from the Kiwanis Club’s annual events go to select charities each year. This year’s include Literacy for Life, Grove Outreach, Latisha’s House and One Child Center for Autism. About $24,000 plus about $20,000 from annual events will be split evenly between the four charities, Ripple estimated.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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