By: Mynecia Destinee Steele
Ms. Sarah Duncan adds her sweet touch to the annual Black Belt Folk Roots Festival every year. On those warm August days, kids and adults alike look forward to something cool and sweet on Saturday and a sundae on Sunday. Duncan churns out cup after cup of her home made ice cream.
“I like to make people happy. It feels good to put a smile on their faces,” said Duncan. She says making ice cream is her way to spread happiness. Her presence is expected and appreciated by many each year. People travel from out of town to see her and to have a taste of her ice cream. Duncan smiled as she remembered a woman traveling from Louisiana for a cup of her homemade deliciousness. The woman told Duncan that she had not planned on coming to the festival. It wasn’t until someone raised the question: “Well, what are we going to do about Ms. Duncan’s ice cream?” that she decided she had to come.
Duncan says that she has always enjoyed attending the festival. She enjoys the blues and gospel music. She also uses the festival as an opportunity to fellowship with friends and a chance to meet new people. Duncan says she has made many friends while participating in the festival for over 30 years.
The festival is all about remembering your roots says Duncan. It is a way to see how to make things the old-fashion way. That is why it’s important for youth to attend the festival. It is a learning experience for them, she stated.
She says children and teens often gather around her table to see how she makes her ice cream. The children make her laugh, asking questions like, “Why are you putting all that salt in the ice cream?” She goes on to explain that she actually pours the salt around the ice cream, not in it.
Just as she was able to lend that small bit of knowledge, there are many other vendors and older people in attendance who have something to pass on to the next generation.
Duncan learned to make ice cream about 35 years ago, from Mrs. Margaret Charles Smith. Smith made ice cream at a restaurant that Duncan often visited. She gave Duncan her recipe, and instructions on how to make the ice cream. But, through practice, Duncan was able to teach herself the rest. Over the years, Duncan has tweaked that original recipe, but still credits Smith for helping her get started.
In the early years, Duncan would make about 5 gallons of ice cream total. Since then, demand has grown. She now sells about 20-25 gallons. Even after preparing that much ice cream, she struggles to make it last both days. She also had to bring in some help. Her children have started helping out and selling the ice cream for her.
People frequently ask Duncan about selling her ice cream at other locations and for other events. She decided to keep it in Greene County. She only makes her homemade ice cream for the Black Belt Folk Roots Festival and occasional family gatherings.
Ms. Duncan stated, with some sadness, that she doesn’t know how long she will be able to continue preparing her ice cream for the festival.