On a hot and humid day in Ripon Wisconsin one can find themselves taking a stroll down Main Street with an unexpected stop at Sweet n’ Saulty Ice Cream Parlor. Heck, after you’ve been there once or twice, you might even find yourself going back on a rainy day too.
Once you have committed to walking through the doors of this centrally located Ripon business, you quickly realize by the atmosphere around you a sense that you stepped somewhat back in time.
Tim Saul the owner, who is also Ripon’s fire chief, told me that Sweet n’ Saulty was a passion project of him and his wife, Renee. They wanted to design an Ice Cream Parlor for Ripon with an Old School feel. They have done just that! With just under 30 Flavors to choose from, a classic banana split and an endless wall of five and dime candies to choose from. This really is a magical place. We were also pleased to find out his prices seemed from back in the day too.
One of the first things that caught my attention, after grabbing my double scoop cup and searching for a place to sit, was the corner shelf of games and activities. These are offered to all who step inside Sweet and Saulty’s to use while visiting. Some kids were playing a card game at one table, another group was engaged in a game of jumbo checkers. But what really caught my attention were the two Rubik’s Cubes sitting on top of the shelf. They were solved…
For most people, seeing a solved Rubik’s Cube usually means only one thing. It’s fresh out of the box. Maybe once in a while you see one displayed somewhere, as a show piece in an office of someone that is trying to show you how smart they are and most likely those just came fresh out of the box too. My first instinct seeing these two in the solved configuration at Saulty’s was to scramble them. I think I even said “Wow someone just took these out of the boxes and placed them here and no one’s even touched them since”. With pleasure I quickly shuffled them up, set them both down and walked down main street enjoying my “Peach Cobbler” ice cream. I was certain that I would find those scrambled cubes upon my return.
Imagine my surprise when I returned to Sweet n’ Saulty a day or so later and found both Rubik’s cubes sitting on top of the Shelf SOLVED AGAIN! Needless to say, I was a bit stunned and amazed.
Turns out this was the work of Joel Neives, a local Ripon youth who can perform the algorithms needed to solve almost any shuffled cube in under 20 sec. I know this, because we tested him, and who better to bring along for the challenge than Mark Setteducati, who was visiting Ripon from New York. Mark is internationally known as one of the top 2% of toy, magic, and puzzle inventors in the world. He is also the creator and inventor of Rubik’s game, a spin off game of the classic puzzle that he licensed to Rubik.
When I mentioned Joel to Mark, he agreed that we both should meet with Joel and his very supportive family together at Sweet n’ Saulty. Which we did.
We challenged Joel twice. Mark and I shuffled the cube and Nicole set the timer to let Joel know the challenge was about to begin. His first round came in under 17 seconds to a thundering round of applause from the entire Sweet n’ Saulty parlor. Reshuffling the cube again and the timer now set for Round 2, he instantly began moving at robotic speed, and broke the previous time by one second. Everyone was in awe of Joel! The conversation spun on after that. There were magic tricks being performed, puzzle and math talk taking place. All right in the middle of Sweet n’ Saulty. Conversation levels so far out of the norm, the ice cream began to melt!
Joel is a remarkable young man. His brain is moving at such a rapid pace and his understanding of advanced algorithms, logic and math is outstanding. He is an inspiration to the entire community. To watch Joel solve the cube in the way that he does is fascinating to say the least.
Mark Setteducati is also the co-founder of “Gathering for Gardner”, whose mission statement is “The Gathering 4 Gardner (G4G) Foundation stimulates curiosity and the playful exchange of ideas and critical thinking in recreational math, magic, science, literature, and puzzles to preserve the legacy of writer and polymath Martin Gardner.” Mark went on to say after our visit with the young Ripon genius; “Joel is truly a unique individual that everyone will hear about someday. He is young and brilliant and will go on to do great things.”
Needless to say, we all departed as friends, with the expectation of staying in touch and gathering again at Sweet n’ Saulty soon. Perhaps next time inviting other critical thinkers amongst the Ripon community to join us? Ponder that…
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