By Matt Reese
Ahhhh ice cream!
June is dairy month, so it seems like an excellent reason to enjoy ice cream with a bit more regularity than usual. And, in 1984, President Ronald Reagan decided July should be National Ice Cream Month, with the third Sunday of the month being National Ice Cream Day. As such, it seems perfectly reasonable that June’s increased ice cream consumption should obviously be continued thorough next month as well.
As it stands, ice cream is a dietary staple for many farms around Ohio. I know for many years the Schwan’s delivery guy had a standing weekly order with my grandpa to refill the deep freeze in the old summer kitchen on the farm. Grandpa was not an agrarian outlier.
Carrying on the family tradition, I am a guy who certainly enjoys ice cream as well. Growing up (and still) my personal favorite is Dietsch Brothers Ice Cream in Findlay. At every opportunity, with hopefully plenty of chances in June and July, I order my favorite chocolate soda with a scoop of chocolate pretzel caramel swirl. Wow do I love those.
Ohio has a long, delicious history with ice cream, claiming several noteworthy ice cream contributions. According to Ohio History Central, some historians claim that Canton, Ohio, residents Frank and Robert Menches created the first-ever ice cream cone. The story goes that in 1904, the Menches brothers were selling ice cream at the St. Louis World’s Fair when they ran out of bowls for serving it. A few concession stands away, Ernest A. Hamwi, a pastry chef, was selling a Syrian pastry called Zalabia. To address the challenge at hand, the Menches brothers rolled the flat pastry into cones and used them to hold and serve the ice cream.
Ohio also claims to be the home of the first-ever banana split, though the claim is not without some controversy (Latrobe, Penn. also claims the honor). Looking for a way to draw students from Wilmington College into his restaurant, Ernest R. Hazard is said to have entered a competition in which he sliced a banana in half, added 3 scoops of ice cream, chocolate sauce, pineapple, strawberry topping, nuts, whipped cream and 2 red cherries, according to Ohio History Central. He won the competition and boosted restaurant business with his 1907 creation. To commemorate this milestone (fictitious or not), Wilmington hosted the annual Banana Spilt Festival for the purpose of raising funds for local non-profits and Rotary Scholarship Funds the second weekend in June for 20+ years. The festival was put on hold for COVID and fans of the festival were again disappointed when the Wilmington Rotary Club recently announced that the Banana Split Festival was placed on hiatus for 2022 as the two community Rotary Clubs evaluate the event’s long-term future. This may leave an opening for the folks in Latrobe.
More concrete is the Ohio origin of the Klondike Bar, undisputedly manufactured by the Isaly Dairy Company in Mansfield in 1922 as an affordable treat for the working class. The business model did well with its several flavors in the 1920s and the low cost allowed Klondike bars to thrive through the tough times of the 1930s.
So where do you get your favorite ice cream? From 2019 through 2021, Ohio Farm Bureau has been asking members about their favorite ice cream shops around the state. The 2021 poll was so popular, the post with the results showed up in our top 10 web posts of 2021 at ocj.com. As I would expect, my favorite Dietsch Brothers Ice Cream in Findlay was on the list, but at (for me) a disappointing No. 4. Topping the 2021 poll was the legendary Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl in Zanesville. Others on the list over the last 3 years (in no particular order) included Lil e’s Ice Cream in Union County, Emma’s Frosty Kreme in Pike County, Cockeye Creamery in Trumbull County, Jubie’s Creamery in Greene County, Handel’s Ice Cream in Mahoning County, Young’s Jersey Dairy in Greene County, Whip-n-Dip in Ashtabula County, Toft’s Dairy & Ice Cream in Erie County, Kirke’s Homemade Ice Cream in Belmont County, Michael’s Ice Cream in Jackson County, Miller’s Drive-In in Huron County, Terry’s Icecream Dairy Bar in Highland County, Almost Heaven Ice Cream in Stark County, The Cone in Butler County, Mt. Healthy Dairy Bar in Hamilton County, King Kone in Geauga County, Deersville General Store in Harrison County, and Mark’s Homemade Ice Cream in Crawford County.
I have been fortunate to have the chance to visit a number of these fine establishments through the years, but I have plenty of work to do yet to get to them all. What is clear is that Ohio’s rich tradition of delicious ice cream is alive and well, and ready for you to enjoy this June dairy month.