Scream for ice cream satisfied in Williamson; next social Aug. 11

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Curtis Stoner, left, and Maddie Hissong make just what the customer ordered at the Williamson Ruritan Club Ice Cream Social.

For the past five years, Williamson Ruritan has hosted an Ice Cream Social the second Tuesday of the month, April through October. It built on its reputation of serving tasty homemade ice cream, which members sold at festivals. But the travels meant extra work, and the decision to cut back on that in favor of inviting the public to the Williamson Community Center has proved worthwhile.

“The customers come to us,” said Daryl Meyers. He manned a trailer outside the center at 5583 Kennedy Drive on July 14.

Along with Darryl Shaffer, Vonnie Meyers, and youth members Kaleb Keefer, 8, and Jaren Stoner, 9, they sold ice cream by the scoop. On the warm summer evening, their guests found space at outdoor tables to enjoy the cool treat.

Nearby, Gary Gossert and Eric Gossert flipped burgers on a grill. They figured their job was easy compared to the kitchen help inside, where a crowd had filled the dining room as soon as the doors opened at 5. They expected a decline in customers that night due to seasonal traditions around the county.

“We might be down because of Greencastle’s carnival, and next month we will overlap with Mercersburg’s fair,” said Gary.

Nevertheless, the Williamson Ruritan social is making an imprint on people living in the town, as well as in Greencastle, Mercersburg, Chambersburg,  Waynesboro and other areas.

Richard Miller, McConnellsburg, and his wife Esther were there for the first time. He had received a coupon for ice cream from the club in June when he was at the Williamson Car Show. He tried it and liked it.

“It was the best I ever ate,” he said. “My wife loves ice cream and this is the best, so I brought her.”

He was not alone. Ruritan president Bob Brindle estimated 300 orders were placed each night of the social, some for multiple people. The doors were open until 8 p.m. The people came for soup, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage, pulled pork and of course, ice cream. They could buy it straight, or customized, such as in milkshakes and banana splits.

Debbie Buchanan came for dinner, but then clarified she really was after a brownie hot fudge sundae. Her fiance’ Ethan Meyers favored the cheesy potato soup.

Some Ruritan Club volunteers arrived at 7 a.m. to begin setting up the trailer and organizing the kitchen. The ice cream had been made in advance.

A homemade version of the ice cream has been sold as a fundraiser since 1973, the innovation of the late Harry Meyers. His granddaughter Cindy Hissong carries on the tradition. She had already spent months making ice cream, ready for the first social in April and onward. Other creators were Curtis Stoner, Jaren Stoner, Brindle, and Cliff ‘Peanut’ White.

Hissong named the most popular ice cream among customers.

“Grape Nuts is the best seller. But if you ask my daughter, it is cotton candy. That’s a new flavor.”

The diners can also choose raspberry, chocolate, orange pineapple, butter pecan, black cherry, vanilla and peanut butter. And what people remember fondly from decades ago may not be quite the same today.

“We’ve changed the recipe a lot over the years,” said Hissong.

While most of the fundraising is now local, she noted they still bring the trailer to some festivals, and their ice cream is purchased by dairy promoters for the Fulton County Fair and the Hunterstown Ruritan Club near Gettysburg.

Williamson Ruritan organized in 1969, following the 1928 mandate of the national club, to bring rural and city folk together. It now has approximately 50 members. The ice cream social brings most of them together in a joint project.

“It’s a big day,” said Darryl Shaffer.

The dates of the other socials are Aug. 11, Sept. 8 and Oct. 13.