Some call it Spring …. I call it ice cream season.
It’s here! The time of year when my favorite mom-and-pop-style ice cream stands eagerly turn their signs from closed to open for business! I can’t wait to get that first taste of my favorite, chocolate and vanilla twist with chocolate sprinkles. Sure, temperatures still dip into the teens in the evening, and you may freeze standing in line for your favorite treat. But the payoff is so sweet as you take that first lick or scoop. It is spring in a cone, here to help us through the last doldrums of winter.
Because it is still chilly outside, I offer the following winter ice cream rules:
- Do not order a banana split – they take way too long!
- Know what you want to order before you get to the window.
- Tip your server! He or she is likely a high school or college student. Ice cream = kindness.
- Bring cash. Most of these stands are small businesses who may have to pay extra for credit or debit card transactions.
Whether you’re a cone, sundae or shake kind of person, where do you go for the best ice cream? Here’s a list of my favorite stops in Elmiraland:
KING KONE / 1315 College Avenue
Krunch Kote anyone? King Kone used to be one of the only stands that you could get this marvelously crunchy topping, which has since caught on at other places. This remains, however, the only one with bright yellow paint and a giant gorilla-holding-ice-cream on the roof. This stand is one that you might visit while on a first date after having seen a movie. It’s vintage! (And one of the first to open every year.)
BIG TOP/ Miracle Mile
Big Top is fantastic, so don’t let its location on the busy Miracle Mile scare you away! This little stand has been around for what seems like forever. While I used to be put off by all of the signs in the windows saying things like, “cash only” or “know what you want to order before coming to the window,” I now appreciate that they keep the lines moving. The Erie Railroad tracks run behind Big Top and occasionally the train will stop so conductors can grab lunch or a cone. That’s always fun to see.
FAIR SHAKE / Pine City
Fair Shake is really more of an experience, especially if you have young kids. They offer over 50 flavors of ice cream plus several dairy- or sugar-free options, a bunch of old arcade games inside, a fish pond in the back and a homemade barrel train that gives rides to little ones for FREE!
GRAND CENTRAL CREAMERY / Elmira Heights
Serving ice cream since 1959, Grand Central Creamery is the only local stand providing both walk-up AND drive-thru service. Here you’ll find 9 Perry’s soft-serve custard flavors along with over 40 varieties of hard ice cream. You can also spot the dole-whip flavor-of-the-week on their sign – I know a few friends who get really excited for pumpkin every year.
SERENDIPITY / Route 352, Big Flats
Serendipity is the new kid on the block. Stop here to break up your commute from Elmira to Corning or grab a sweet treat to enjoy at one of the tables outside. Serving Hershey’s ice cream, you’ll find all of the standards – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry – hard and soft, plus a bunch of other flavors. They have coffee, too, which I hear is great! This is a really nice place and a modern variation to the traditional stands we typically see in Elmira.
This wraps up my list of favorites … now get out there and enjoy some spring in a cone as we usher in the warmer weather!
Well, it’s official. Spring has sprung! Which means frosty mornings, thawing yards, pink sunrises, and muddy shoes. Oh, and the occasional snow storm. But let’s not talk about that.
As I look outside on this sunny day with an impossibly blue sky, I’m thinking about Spring in all those feel-good, I-read-this-on-a-magnet ways. Spring is new beginnings. A promise of all that is green and wonderful. It’s satisfying breezes reminding us that not only are warmer days yet to come, but that everything exists in a cycle. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Birth. Life. Death. Repeat. Right now, I can’t help but think about how Elmira fits into the cycle. I blame the blue sky.
Surely we have seen our Winter. Shops closed and businesses gone. Declining population. Vacant properties. Poverty. Crime. But now, I like to think that we are at our Spring. Budding businesses popping up downtown like little green shoots in flower beds. Think Downtown Grind and Turtle Leaf Café. New construction for the first time in decades. Look at the development at 100 West Water Street Apartments getting ready to open its doors. People moving here for opportunities like LECOM. Developers taking back long-dormant, vacant properties and turning them in to housing for all different income levels. Institutions and individuals collaboratively addressing poverty and crime. All of us working together as a community toward a better future.
As silly as it was impressive, the giant human shamrock coordinated by Elmira Downtown Development on St. Patrick’s Day was more than a new world record and fantastic PR event. It was proof–green and wonderful–of the unique spirit of this community. Our ability to come together. Bitingly cold, muddy, and with snow flurries dotting the sky, 1200 Elmirans donned thin green ponchos and formed that shamrock; hundreds more came to show their support. That’s crazy! And cool. And not something just any community would or could do. And THAT is Elmira.
I’m ready for Spring, are you?
Let’s rephrase that … I mean, who DOESN’T want to help set a world record!
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in our house, we spend a fair amount of time watching YouTube videos in which five bros utilize an exorbitant amount of money and energy breaking Guinness World Records on athletic feats. First of all, if you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky. Second of all, what I’m about to describe is going to be way more fun than watching videos at home. Speaking of lucky, taking part in the revelry below may also bring you good luck.*
*This is not guaranteed.
Elmira Downtown Development (EDD) is organizing–in the most amazing way–an attempt to form the World’s Largest Human Shamrock this Sunday in Eldridge Park. EDD is hoping to attract 1,000 willing participants, wearing kelly green, for a photograph in the shape of a shamrock. What better way to kick off your St. Patrick’s Day? Seriously.
Facebook event link … see you there!
Hear that call! The time has come for one and all to Play Ball!
Who doesn’t love the early 90’s movie, “A League of Their Own,” starring Tom Hanks and Geena Davis? If you haven’t watched it, run out to your nearest video store (yes, I am one of those people who still rent DVD’s) … or take the normal route and download or stream it. Without giving too much away, the movie is a depiction of the early days of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) that Philip Wrigley founded after the start of WWII as a way to keep baseball alive while the majority of men were at war.
Watching the movie for the first time as a teen, I imagined being alive during WWII, wondering whether I’d be a Rosie the Riveter type or like Rosie O’Donnell’s foul-mouthed but hilariously funny character. Turns out I am neither of those today but instead am a grantmaker (definitely not foul-mouthed).
Fast-forward to around 2008 when I begin working for the Community Foundation of Elmira-Corning and the Finger Lakes. One of the first grants I remember reading was for the Southport Cinderella Softball League. The applicants intended for the grant help bring back the league after a hiatus of several years. Some committed volunteers from Elmira’s Southside didn’t want to let another year pass without a league for girls who want to learn how to play one of America’s favorite games.
As I read the grant, I couldn’t help but remember the movie, so I did a quick Google search to see if any local women had played in the first female professional baseball league. Success! Clara “Babe” Cook, an Elmira (specifically, Pine City) native, played for the 1943 Rockford (IL) Peaches, one of the league’s premiere teams. This was incredibly fascinating news!
Here’s what I learned: Clara took an early interest in the game and played sandlot ball with her brother and some friends. An employee from the old Remington Rand spotted Clara and urged her parents to let her play ball. After graduating from Southside High School, Clara worked for the Rand and organized a team for the company. It was at that time she was spotted by a AAGPBL scout who invited her to join the league.
One of the original sixty founding members, Clara “Babe” Cook was a lefty pitcher with a 3.40 ERA in 45 innings of work (1944). She played for the Kenosha Comets, Rockford Peaches and the Milwaukee Chicks from 1943 to 1944. While playing for the Milwaukee Chicks (below), Clara and her team mates won the 1944 league championship.
After playing for two years, Clara returned to Elmira and to her job at the Remington Rand. Ten years later, she moved to California, where she worked for an aircraft corporation. Elmira called her back home for retirement, where her passion and love for baseball continued. In Southport, she coached and mentored young women interested in baseball. In 1975, Clara was inducted into the Metro-Elmira Sports Hall of Fame (link to Chemung County Sports Hall of Fame). In 1988, she was part of the unveiling of the permanent display, Women in Baseball, at the Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown, NY.
When I watch the movie now, I have a real sense of pride knowing that one of our own played in the league. One of our own helped to keep baseball relevant and alive for people and families who love the sport during some very dark days. One of our own worked to inspire so many other young girls who played in sandlots on long summer days. I do wonder from time to time about whether Clara was like one of the characters from the movie. (Geena Davis’s character “Dottie” was one of my favorites.) But then I think she was just a girl from Elmira who loved baseball and that is good enough for me.
I really don’t have the words to describe how fortunate we are to have Joycrest Skating Rink here in Elmiraland.