UPDATE (1:40 pm): The third gift certificate to Ferris Acres Creamery has been found, located near the bocce courts at The Pleasance.
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Ferris Acres Creamery, at 144 Sugar Street, is celebrating its tenth anniversary June 23. To thank its customers, the ice cream stand located on the dairy farm operated by the Ferris family is hosting a special events all day Monday. It is the family’s way, said Ferris Acres Manager Terri Ferris, of thanking friends and customers for what has “definitely been a good decade.”
The Creamery’s hours are 11:30 am to 10 pm daily, and on Monday, the day will be filled with free refreshments, raffles and even a series of sundae eating contests.
“We knew this was the tenth anniversary coming up, and wanted to do something special,” said Mrs Ferris. “The family has been planning this forever.”
The business opened in 2004, and is situated on Ferris Acres, the final operating dairy farm in Fairfield Country. The farm has been in the Ferris family since 1864.
Employees have also taken a role in planning today’s celebration, encouraging Mrs Ferris to hide three gift certificates for the Creamery around town. She did that Monday morning, around 7 am, she said.
“They kids started talking about that guy who has been hiding money in California,” said Mrs Ferris, referring to the anonymous person who began leaving $100 bills in envelopes hidden around San Francisco last month. “They wanted to do something like that, and this is what we came up with.”
On Monday morning, the Creamery announced via its Facebook page that three gift cards have been hidden in town, all within two miles of the flagpole and each on public property. Hints for the location of the gift cards are being posted on the Creamery’s Facebook page.
By 11:15, one of the cards had already been located, at Newtown Park and Bark. By 12:30, the second card — at Treadwell Park — had also been located.
“The hints have been the hardest part,” said Mrs Ferris. “”We didn’t want to make it too easy by making the hints too easy.”
Cow Crossing Sundae Eating Contests are scheduled at 2 pm, to feature Creamery staff members; 4 pm, for ages 12 and under; and 6 pm, for ages 13 and up.
The contests have limited openings. Mrs Ferris said Monday morning that the “contests are all filled, but alternates are welcome to come in case someone backs out.”
Contestants are being challenged to eat the signature sundae of the ice cream stand: three scoops of ice cream loaded with hot fudge, whipped cream, green sprinkles, and three chocolate cow candies.
The public is invited — encouraged — to cheer on competitors during any of the competitions.
In addition on Monday, customers who wear a Creamery T-shirt or hat will receive a free topping. Free refreshments will be served all day including ice cream cake samples, and free raffles will be conducted all day.
From 2 to 4 pm, there will be ongoing screenings of a DVD sharing the history of Ferris Farm. Members of the family are planning to be on hand to answer questions.
Also today, there is a contest to name a new flavor combination: black raspberry ice cream with chocolate chunks and walnuts.
Farm equipment, including tractors and hay balers, are on view; a young calf is expected to visit the farm by early afternoon.
“It’s been steady already,” Mrs Ferris said of the number of customers who had found their way to the popular ice cream stand by 12:30.
In the interest of paying it forward — something the Creamery has long done, with regular support of Relay For Life, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Ben’s Bells, sports teams and countless other groups — the creamery is encouraging visitors to consider making a donation on Monday to FAITH Food Pantry. The pantry is located within St John’s Church, but serves all Newtown and Sandy Hook residents with nonperishable food and toiletries. The Creamery will match donations, up to $1,000.
The ice cream business started, Shirley Ferris told The Newtown Bee in 2003, following a series of family meetings where it was decided that the family wanted to stay in Newtown and stay in the dairy business, “but with the realization that we needed to have a retail outlet of some sort to sustain the farm.”
The Ferrises examined other possible sources of income including vegetable farming, raising horses or beef cattle, creating corn mazes and holding hay rides, and rejected each one of them for a variety of reasons, The Bee reported in July 2004, after the ice cream stand opened. Since the Ferris family had long had a dream of being able to bottle their own milk in an old-fashioned style that is pasteurized but not homogenized, an ice cream shop seemed a logical first step toward a dairy operation.
Ferris Acres Creamery opened in 2004, on the 100th anniversary of ice cream cone being invented at the St Louis World’s Fair.
By July 2004 Mrs Ferris — then the ice cream stand’s manager, in charge of hiring and ice cream cakes — told The Newtown Bee that “the ice cream shop is more successful already than we expected. The support from the community has been very encouraging and our whole family is very appreciative.”
Patrons can place their order at one window, and then wait while their ice cream is scooped up and served from another window. The serving counter and beams inside the building that serves as the ice cream stand came from a tree on the family property that had been the tallest Norway spruce in Connecticut — 109 feet, 9½ inches tall — until it was hit by lightning in 2002. The tree had stood sentinel over six generations of Ferrises who had operated the farm since William David Baldwin Ferris, a descendant of the first Ferris to arrive in Newtown around 1703, purchased the land on what is now Route 302 in 1894.
The Creamery was granted permission to expand its building in December 2009, which allowed an additional 20 by 20 feet to be added to the ice cream stand in time for the 2010 season.
Ferris Acres Creamery has always served farm-made hard ice cream with traditional and unique flavor combinations, many with locally inspired names (The MJ Rell, its version of mint chocolate chip ice cream, with green sprinkles mixed in, is its tip of the hat to one of the state’s former governors). It also offers sugar-free ice cream flavors, soft ice cream, sorbet, frozen yogurt, and plenty of toppings for all of the above; ice cream cakes, shakes, and sundaes.
A few years ago, Shirley Ferris handed the managerial role of the business completely to her daughter-in-law, Terry Ferris. Today, Charlie and Brendan Ferris, sons of Shirley and Charles III, handle making the ice cream; Michelle Ferris does inventory and also works at the stand; Colleen Ferris oversees the soft serve machine; and Emily Ferris, one of Shirley and Charles’s granddaughters, is the main ice cream cake decorator.
“Everyone in the family is involved,” Terry Ferris said.
In addition to the family, the business employs a few dozen part-time employees every season, primarily high school and college students. Many return season after season.
"One of my longest-term employees, Jeff Keating, has just returned for his seventh year,” Mrs Ferris said.
There is no indoor seating, but customers have always had the option of sitting at any one of a few picnic tables or benches at the business. Many often take their time admiring the view from the dirt and gravel parking lot. Across the street from the farm are a number of fields where cows owned by the Ferrises can regularly be seen lounging in the sun or eating grass. Early morning drivers have often had to slow down or stop to allow the cows to cross the roadway when they move from the farm to the fields.
As the Creamery’s tagline says, those enjoying their ice cream for a spell can often sit and take in the view “Where The Cows Cross.”