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Late, but Great, Banana Split Centenary

Stored under Caption This!GamesMiscellaneousNewsRecipesRelated EBay AuctionsReviewsVideosVisual Stimulation on June 7, 2007

This week, fans are celebrating the birth of that enduring symbol of America's bygone soda-fountain era, the banana split. On June 8 and 9, Wilmington, Ohio, is holding its 13th annual Banana Split Festival, this year marking the 100th anniversary of the banana split's invention by one of its citizens, E.R. Hazard.

Problem is, Wilmington may have missed the banana boat by three years. Most sundae experts (yes, there are some) think that the banana split was created in 1904, about 275 miles away, by David Strickler, a pharmacy clerk in Latrobe, Penn.

Despite the evidence jeopardizing Wilmington's claim to fame, its centenary bash is still on. After all, the story of how local restaurateur Hazard made culinary history in 1907 by flanking three scoops of ice cream with a banana cut lengthwise is a key source of community pride. For decades, folks have heard how Hazard devised the treat to attract more students from nearby Wilmington College. People have grown up guffawing over how Hazard's cousin, Clinton, predicted the name "banana split" would not catch on.

Facts that seem to pull the peel out from under Wilmington's legacy are simply shrugged off.

"We think the controversy is fun," says Mary Gibson, owner of Gibson's Goodies, the shop that provides the ice cream for the festival. "Until pretty recently, we'd never heard of the Latrobe, Pennsylvania, claim. I guess news didn't used to travel as fast."

Advertising for the upcoming celebration notes that the Latrobe complication "won't dampen spirits" and that "thousands will still flock to Wilmington to sample an old-fashioned banana split."

So what does Latrobe have to say about upsetting Wilmington's banana cart?

"We've got clear evidence that William Strickler invented the banana split right here in the Tassell Pharmacy at 805 Ligonier St. when he was a 23-year-old clerk," says Joseph "Ice Cream Joe" Greubel, president of the Valley Dairy restaurant chain.

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