Hop to It

Puppeteer Madison J. Cripps wows the crowd at The Hop on Merrimon. For four years, kids have been entertained at the local ice cream shop (for free) on Tuesday nights. Photo by Micah Mackenzie

Happen upon The Hop on Merrimon on a Tuesday evening and you’re likely to get a youth-rock band, juggling act or classical cello concert along with your brain freeze. For four years running, Greg and Ashley Garrison have hosted free family events every Tuesday. The husband-and-wife-owned ice cream store sees about 50-60 people packed in each week for the performances.

Past acts have included Forty Fingers, Sirius.B, 23 Skidoo and Cripps Puppets. Greg says when booking adult performers, he looks for groups with good, positive energy that kids really enjoy. They also take pride in providing a venue for young artists to hone their talents. Their surprisingly large performance space has enough room for dance recitals, talent shows and plays put on for kids by kids. In April, Greg says he’s looking forward to the return of youth improv troupe Gaggle of Giggles, “They get funnier every time.” 

When a performance isn’t booked, the community-minded ice creamery holds family-friendly fundraisers and art shows. At their fourth-annual Dr. Seuss Birthday Book Exchange earlier in the month, children gathered for some literary give-and-take with all leftover books donated to an emergency domestic violence shelter.

Greg and Ashley are expecting an addition to their own family at the end of the month — a baby boy. The new dad-to-be says he can already envision himself standing there with his son wrapped up in the Moby, headphones and all, taking in his first performance at The Hop.

Why Tuesday? Greg and Ashley thought it would be nice to coincide with Urban Burrito’s Kids Eat Free Night — all the better to get your gang free burritos before heading downstairs for a double-scoop. Dinner and a show for free. Can’t beat that with an ice-cream stick.

The Hop is located at 640 Merrimon Ave. Get the scoop on upcoming events online at thehopicecreamcafe.com.

A Slice of Family Life

Just down the road, the copiously kid-centric Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company (675 Merrimon Ave.) has its family night every Tuesday as well. From 5-8 p.m., your brood can enjoy balloon animals and free sundaes for the little ones plus family dinner specials.

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