When it comes to popular foods, summertime for Americans includes ice cream. That delectable, frozen concoction ranks up there with hot dogs and apple pie. Many people may not realize that Sunday, July 21, is National Ice Cream Day. Yes, there is a holiday to honor this cold, flavorful, comfort food.
Designated by President Ronald Reagan in 1984, the third Sunday of July is National Ice Cream Day, and the entire month of July is National Ice Cream Month. President Reagan called for people of the United States to observe the day and month with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.”
Ice cream cones were introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The fair ran from April 30 to to December 1, 1904 which meant that five out of the seven months were in hot weather. St. Louis can be brutal in the summer with heat and high humidity, so it’s no surprise that there were at least 50 ice cream vendors and 12 or more waffle stands scattered through the fair’s 1200-plus acres. One waffle vender, a Syrian immigrant named Ernest Hamwi, rolled up some of his waffles or zalabia into a cone shape and gave them to Arnold Fornachou, an ice cream vender who had run out of clean dishes. The waffle cooled within seconds after the cold ice cream was scooped into it, and became hardened and crunchy. The ice cream cone was born.
Hamwi went on to establish the Cornucopia Waffle Company, which later became the Missouri Cone Company. In 1928, he wrote about his experience at the 1904 World’s Fair for the Ice Cream Trade Journal. By then, over 250 million cones annually were being produced nationwide.
Other stories have emerged with different vendors taking credit for the waffle used as an ice cream cone, but even those stories cite the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair as the place where ice cream cones were introduced. Hamwi’s story is the most accepted version, and is acknowledged in cookbooks and by the International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers.
To everyone who is eating ice cream on July 21, 2013, you are helping to honor a national holiday designated by one of our nation’s presidents. So, whether your preference is a rich banana split, gooey hot fudge sundaes, or a cone filled with a single scoop or two of vanilla, chocolate, or any other flavor, you are celebrating “appropriately.”
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Correspondent