Walters sells ice cream to a customer on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Jolene Almendrez/The Ithaca Voice

ITHACA, N.Y. — A man snatched about $700 from a Maine-based ice cream vendor who was selling at the Ithaca Festival for the first time on Saturday.

Robert and Jane Walters were selling ice cream around 5:30 p.m. on the 130 block of West State Street when the incident happened.

The two have run the Island Cow Ice Cream Co. for the past 20 years out of Boothbay Harbor, Maine and usually sell ice cream along the east coast during the summer.

Robert Walters said he was separating the bills in a basket he places money in and began talking to another vendor. Shortly afterward, a customer walked up to the booth and he began scooping ice cream for the person.

“When I turned around to get change out of my basket, the basket wasn’t there anymore,” he said.

A woman working at the recycling bins nearby told him a young man grabbed the basket and headed north around the back of Press Bay Alley. But Walters said he never saw the thief.

Robert Walters sells ice cream to a customer on Sunday afternoon. Photo by Jolene Almendarez/The Ithaca Voice

“We live in Maine where it’s very safe. Our doors aren’t locked,” he said. “It was kind of disappointing. We’re very sad today also because usually things like that don’t happen to us and we really trust people. We really love what we do.”

He went on to say, “It just makes us feel really sad because we go to Baltimore. We go to Syracuse. We go to New York City and we never have  problem. Never have we had a problem….So when it happened it was really a shock,” he said.

A few people gave the Walters donations Sunday. One person Robert Walters gave free ice cream to Saturday gave him $20 and another ice cream vendor — an employee at Ben and Jerry’s — gave him $100. Festival organizers also offered him a hotel for the night and several food vouchers, which he and his wife declined.

He said the generosity has been thoughtful, but he’s not sure if it changes the tone of his first visit to Ithaca. “That made us feel a little bit better.”

“How do we feel about Ithaca? It’s hard to say because it leaves a sad taste when something like that happens,” he said. “Most of the people are nice, but that money is a lot to us. We’re not rich people. It’s the beginning of the year and it means a lot to us. We’re very careful with money.”