Ice cream shops put a social-distance twist on annual Wissahickon park event

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Friends and families were meant to gather in the lush Wissahickon Valley Park today, cooling off with complimentary ice cream.

However, as the COVID-19 pandemic persists, another annual tradition hits the brakes.

The 14th annual Ice Cream Social is still a treasured day for the Friends of the Wissahickon (FOW), which has been connecting communities through nature since 1924.

The 2,000+ member organization weaves outdoor activities, educational outreach, and stewardship opportunities throughout the Wissahickon Creek. The 23-mile winding waterway serves as a tributary to Philadelphia's Schuylkill River.

"It brings all of these communities together who love the same thing," said Sarah Marley, FOW Director of Development. "They love the outdoors, they love open space, they love recreating by water, and they love ice cream!"

That's why she and her fellow non-profit members partnered with local businesses to keep the spirit of the Ice Cream Social alive, albeit from a distance. Locals were encouraged to sign up for a slot to snag a free ice cream or water ice from one of eight different shops, complimentary of the FOW.

Since the FOW footed the bill for each scoop, it served to only benefit each local business.

Jasmine Fields, General Manager of the Trolley Car Cafe, hopes it will introduce people to new culinary opportunities in their own backyards.
"A lot of people that go on the Wissahickon don't necessarily know that we're here," she said, referring to her shop tucked in the corner of East Falls, which was formerly the location of an old pool house called, "The Bathey."

"People just zoom on by, so this is really nice for them to make it to a local place next to somewhere they frequent," Fields said.

It's been a turbulent year for Fields, whose passion is hospitality and nourishment through customer service. Her cafe closed its doors to their indoor dining area, but now offers outdoor seating. She hopes to draw more people back through events such as a drive-in movie night.

Her cafe participated in the Ice Cream Social (Distance), along with Bredenbeck's, Cedars House Café, Chloe's Corner, Michael's Water Ice, Tranzilli's Real Italian Water Ice, Valley Green Inn, and Zsa's Ice Cream.

As Max Kimball said as he scarfed down a bowl of chocolate ice cream, "Have a cup of ice cream every once in a while, 'cause it just makes you happier!"

To learn more about the Friends of Wissahickon, visit their website.

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