Looking for some tasteful summertime fun -- served with a dollop of history?
Latrobe will dish it up for the whole family tomorrow through Sunday when the city hosts a three-day nostalgic street party -- the first ever Great American Banana Split Festival.
There will be a '50s sock hop with hula hoop, bubble gum and limbo contests. There will also be a family street fair with a dunk tank, a "flash mob" that will simultaneously peel bananas, a car show, a banana baking contest, and, of course, lots of ice cream.
In March, Latrobe officially was designated the home of the banana split. So the Latrobe community has been busy planning the festival. An apprentice pharmacist at Tassel's Pharmacy, David Strickler, 23, is credited with inventing in 1904 the elaborate ice cream concoction for a group of students at nearby Saint Vincent College in Unity.
Here is a schedule of events for the Great American Banana Split Festival
• 11 to 11:45 a.m., Dedication of historical marker in 800 block of Ligonier Street
• Noon to 5 p.m., downtown sidewalk sale by participating merchants
• 6:30 to 7 p.m., Dole Banana Daiquiri Cocktails at Quatrini Rafferty Law Firm Building and Ligonier Street
• 7 to 9 p.m., Yellow Tie Gala at Quatrini building; tickets $35 each.
• 10 a.m. to noon, Dole Family Stroll downtown, sponsored by Rotary Club
• 10 a.m. to noon, Latrobe Business and Professional Women's Club Baking Contest at Quatrini building
• 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sidewalk sale and vendors downtown
• 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Lions Club car hop and car show, Depot Street lots
• Noon to 4 p.m., old-fashioned family fair at Main and Weldon streets
• 6 to 9 p.m., Malt Shop Sock Hop at Quatrini building; tickets $10 adults, $5 children.
• 3:45 to 4:30 p.m., Banana Flash Mob at Chuck Noll Field on Saint Vincent College campus
• 4:30 to 6 p.m., Banana Split bars at St. Vincent gym
Dole's Bobby Banana (a 6-foot tall banana character) and Valley Dairy's Joe "Ice Cream Joe" Greubel will serve as the honorary co-chairs and participate in the official ceremonies.
Nick Felice, director of the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, is coordinating events.
"I can't speak highly enough about the volunteers and groups that have come together for this celebration," he said. "They've done a tremendous job."
Sponsors of the festival are Dole Fresh Fruit, the city, the Latrobe Art Center, Latrobe Community Revitalization Program and Saint Vincent College. But many of the organizations in town -- such as the Rotary, Lions and Hope Center -- are involved as well.
"We wanted to do something in the entrepreneurial spirit of America like Dr. Strickler did when he invented the banana split," Mr. Felice said.
"So this festival is Americana, with a family street fair, and a sock hop and a car hop, and those play well off the banana split theme and the festival being in summer. We want to make this [Latrobe's] annual festival, what we are known for.
"And we're hoping some of the people who have left the area come back every year for it."
Officials are anticipating 700 for the official dedication of the historic marker Friday morning. The Pennsylvania state historical marker will be located at the site of the original Tassel's Pharmacy, which later became Strickler's Drug Store.
The marker ceremony will include remarks by elected officials and a presentation to the winner of the Latrobe Art Center's banana split song contest.
Special guests at the dedication will be the entire freshman class of Saint Vincent, which will surround the marker in honor of their classmates who first enjoyed the banana splits.
There will be sidewalk sales and a Yellow Tie Gala. Men are asked to wear yellow ties and women anything yellow. Valet parking will be offered, and patrons can walk the yellow carpet into the art center. A DJ playing oldies will be located outside for dancing in the street.
Ground zero for the weekend's activities will be the 800 block of Ligonier Street, where the pharmacy was located, and the entire block will be closed to traffic.
"We're going to put up a big tent, 40 feet by 60 feet, in the street, connecting the Quatrini Rafferty Building with the Latrobe Art Center, just across the street. That way, we can use the indoor space in both buildings, and have the tent if it rains, or if it is too hot."
Some of the biggest events are expected to be the sock hop Saturday night and the flash mob that will peel bananas Sunday at the college.
The "Malt Shop Sock Hop" dance Saturday night at the Latrobe Art Center is billed as a family fun night out. The dance floor will be outside on the streets with a DJ playing both outside and inside. Tables and chairs will be set up throughout the area.
Residents are encouraged to wear their poodle skirts and saddle shoes and prepare to go back to the fabulous 1950s to shake, rattle and roll with a night of food, dancing and fun. The public is encouraged to dress in '50s garb, but it is not required. Suggested attire for the women include long skirts, blue jeans, white button shirts and ponytails, and for the men white T-shirts, blue jeans, leather jackets and slicked back hair. (Think "Grease" and John Travolta and Olivia Newton John.)
Waiters on roller skates will be passing out food. A hula hoop contest, a limbo contest and a bubble gum blowing contest will be held during the evening.
A special children's section will allow young visitors to hang out with Malt Shop Marty while they draw or paint their own banana splits, have their faces painted or try their hand with balloon markers.
The art center is sponsoring a Banana Split Theme Song competition, and its Neighborhood Cafe will have scads of treats and drinks. More than 90 of the Latrobe Art Center Gallery members will exhibit banana split-themed paintings and sculptures.
Mr. Felice said some 150 classic cars are expected for the car hop, and said the city had to limit the number because of parking spaces available in the downtown lots.
The old-fashioned street fair Saturday will have a dunk tank, pony rides and food booths.
Dole's ad agency helped come up with the flash mob idea for Sunday, Mr. Felice said.
"Saint Vincent classes begin the next day, so we're expecting a lot of students,'' he said.
Everyone entering the Chuck Noll Stadium on campus will get a banana, and on cue everyone will peel the bananas, he said.
"There will be cameramen in the stadium bleachers filming that, and they will patch it live to the Internet. We're hoping for the biggest flash mob ever; there may end up being 1,000 people there," Mr. Felice said.
And, of course, everyone participating gets a free banana split afterwards.
Debra Duncan, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org