Small bites: The Hop Ice Cream Café turns 40

HOP RIGHT IN: Owners Ashley and Greg Garrison purchased The Hop Ice Cream Cafe in 2008. The couple had previously worked at the shop while in college at UNC Asheville. On Aug. 28, The Hop celebrates 40 years in business. Photo courtesy of the Garrisons.

The Hop Ice Cream Café will be serving free kiddie scoops of ice cream all day on Tuesday, Aug. 28. But don’t let the word “kiddie” fool you. These freebies are available to all customers as part of the café’s 40-year anniversary. Along with complimentary treats, the celebration will also feature a free live performance by Sirius.B, the absurdist gypsy-folk-funk-punk band.

The daylong bash is a continuation of the café’s free weekly family-friendly entertainment series, which owners Greg and Ashley Garrison launched shortly after they bought the shop in 2008. At that time, the business had recently moved from its original location at 505 Merrimon Ave. (present-day YoLo Asheville) to its current space in the Merrimon Square shopping plaza. The new store more than doubled the shop’s previous total square footage.

The added space allowed the Garrisons to host events, and from musicians to puppeteers, the weekly entertainment offerings gradually expanded in attendance, talent (including a 2010 performance by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo) and meaning. “I remember having cellist Franklin Keel perform early on, and this one young kid saw him playing and just stopped and stared for like five minutes,” Greg says. “That was a special moment. And it was something we wanted to create more of.”

Along with the in-house performances, the Garrisons have also focused on giving back to the community. Greg estimates that in the last 10 years, the couple have raised over $100,000 for local nonprofits and initiatives. “It’s contagious,” he says. “That feeling of knowing what you’re doing is benefiting somebody who really needs it — it’s a driving force behind a lot of what we do.”

The 40-year celebration is also a chance for the Garrisons to show their gratitude to the community. “It’s just a way to say thank you,” says Greg. “Thank you not just to the families that are visiting, but to all the folks over the last 40 years that have been supporting this business. And all of the relationships and wonderful moments that have come as a result of us purchasing an ice cream business in Asheville.”

The Hop Ice Cream Café’s 40th anniversary celebration runs 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 640 Merrimon Ave. Sirius.B will perform 6-8 p.m. For more information, visit avl.mx/57w.

BaconFest Asheville returns

On Saturday, Aug. 25, BaconFest Asheville returns for its sixth year at Highland Brewing Co. FarmBurger, AUX Bar, Polanco Contemporary Mexican Cuisine and North Star Bakehouse are just a few of the participating restaurants for the rain-or-shine event. The Chop Shop Butchery is the festival’s official bacon provider. Free shuttle service from the River Ridge Marketplace shopping center is available for general admission ticket holders. Along with bacon, the festival will also feature live music, beer and kids’ activities.

BaconFest Asheville runs 1-4 p.m. (with early access at noon for VIP ticket holders) Saturday, Aug. 25, at Highland Brewing Co., 12 Old Charlotte Highway. Tickets range from $25-$50. For more information, visit avl.mx/57t.

Farm to Fork Dining on Town Square

The third annual Farm to Fork Dining on Town Square in Burnsville will begin with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails at the Nu Wray Inn. The event then moves to Main Street with dinner and live music by the 42nd Street Jazz Band. TRACTOR Food and Farms, a nonprofit food hub that works with over 50 small family farms in Burnsville, will team up with Taylor Montgomery, executive chef at Mountain Air Country Club, to prepare the dinner. In a press release, Michael Graf, operating manager for TRACTOR notes, “The dinner helps us in our mission to support local farmers but also allows us to show the community the impressive quality and variety of local offerings.”

Farm to Fork Dining on Town Square begins at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, at the Nu Wray Inn, 102 Town Square, Burnsville. Tickets are $125. All proceeds benefit TRACTOR. For tickets, visit avl.mx/57v or call 828-536-0126.

Tuscan Wine Dinner at Cucina 24

The tastes of Tuscany will be served and poured at the Tuscan Wine Dinner at Cucina 24 on Wednesday, Aug. 29. Four courses, including dessert, will be paired with four Tuscan red wines from Badia a Coltibuono: Cetamura 2016, R. Stucchi 2015, Classico Resrva 2015 and Sangioveto 2011. The evening will also include a presentation and discussion by Emmanuella Stucchi, owner of Badia a Coltibuono.

Tuscan Wine Dinner starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Cucina 24, 24 Wall St. Tickets are $85 including tax and gratuity. For tickets, call 828-254-6170.

Vegan Awareness Week

Asheville will host its third annual Vegan Awareness Week beginning Monday, Aug. 27. The week will feature evening talks, film screenings and games at various locations, including The BLOCK Off Biltmore, Plant restaurant and Firestorm Books & Coffee, culminating with Asheville VegFest: A Celebration of Food and Drink, on Sunday, Sept. 2, at Pack Square Park. Brew Dawgz, Gypsy Queen Cuisine, King of Pops, The Hop, MacDaddy’s Lemonade, I Really Mean It, Revolution Gelato, Sunshine Sammies, Viet Gril and Zia Taqueria are among participating vendors for the festival. The gathering will also feature live music, craft booths and kids activities.

Vegan Awareness Week runs Monday-Sunday, Aug. 22-Sept. 2. Asheville VegFest runs 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, Sept 2, at Pack Square Park, 80 Court Plaza. For more information, including a list of events, visit avl.mx/57u.

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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist. For his weekly #tuesdayhistory tidbits on Asheville, follow him on Instagram @tcalder.

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