Welcome to #QuirkyOhio, our 2017 blog series highlighting Ohio's odd, unusual and downright wacky experiences, places and events. Follow along as we profile some of the quirkiest parts of the state!
If you’re looking to visit a historic site this summer – look no further than Wilmington, Ohio.
While the official birthplace of the banana split is up for debate, citizens of Wilmington have long believed that resident Ernest Hazard invented the classic American dish in 1907. To this day, Wilmington holds the annual Banana Split Festival to commemorate Hazard’s invention and fight for his rightful place in ice cream history.
During 1907’s frigid Ohio winter, Hazard struggled to entice students from Wilmington College to brave the journey from their dorm rooms to his restaurant. In a desperate attempt to attract business, Hazard did something unthinkable – he put three scoops of ice-cream between two halves of a banana.
America would never be the same.
Within weeks, the dish was a hit with the college crowd, and business at Hazard’s restaurant boomed. To commemorate this historic achievement, Wilmington established The Banana Split Festival in 1994 to pay homage to Hazard.
Soon after the first festival, Latrobe, Pennsylvania also claimed to be the birthplace of the banana split, citing resident David Strickler’s banana and ice-cream dish first sold in 1904. The claim sparked debate amongst ice-cream aficionados – even generating remarks from the National Ice Cream Retailers Association (NICRA) - and marked the beginning of a long standing rivalry between the two cities.
Regardless of the dish's true origin, the festival draws thousands every year because - like the banana split - the festival doesn’t lack appeal. Attendees can participate in a 5k, listen to live music, play in a baseball tournament and go to a car show. But most importantly, the festival encourages attendees to build their own banana split at the site that started it all.
What’s your favorite quirky destination in our state? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below as we continue our tour of Quirky Ohio.