The decadent banana split with a banana cut down the middle and served with three heaping scoops of ice cream topped off with nuts, chocolate whipped cream and cherries is an American dessert staple. The split’s popularity and its indulgent taste combination even inspires the flavor options for other foods like snacks and beverages. There is no question that it is the top banana when it comes to ice cream desserts.
Fortunately for Ohio the small town of Wilmington had an ingenious businessman in 1907 named Ernest Hazard who was looking for a way to draw customers to his restaurant in the middle of winter and attract the students from Wilmington College. He challenged the employees of Hazard’s Restaurant to come up with the most unique food item. It turns out that Mr. Hazard himself was a culinary creative before it ever became a thingand made what is forever known as the banana split with the signature long dish, multiple toppings and the cherries on the top.
While Hazard’s invention is honored every year in June at the Wilmington Banana Split Festival, a debate still festers with the city of Latrobe, Pennsylvania that also claims to be the birthplace of the banana split. Officials in Latrobe claim that a pharmacist apprentice by the name of David Strickler invented the split in 1904, three years before Ernest Hazard. Latrobe has gone as far as placing an official state historical marker in the city and constructing a larger than life version of the banana split for visitors to admire in town. The friendly rivalry between the two cities for the title has become an exciting part of the banana split storyline as each location continually ups-the-ante with festivals and tributes to the ice cream treat. Even the mayors of the two cities have faced-off with a banana split throw down.
While a number of the small-town ice cream parlors have closed in Wilmington, you can still get a famous split from the local restaurants or Dairy Queen. The best time to visit is during the Banana Split Festival hosted by the Wilmington Rotary Club every summer at Denver Williams Park. It is a fundraiser with the proceeds going back into the community so you can feel good about indulging in making your own version at the “make your own banana split booth,” trying your skill at a banana spilt eating contest and enjoying a weekend of entertainment, rides and car show.
As Ohioans we throw our support behind Wilmington as the top-banana bragging rights capitol of the all-American ice cream indulgence.
For more tasty treats, Find It Here on Ohio.org.