Posted: Thursday Aug 22, 2013
July 10, 2013
The Great American Banana Split Celebration, an official homecoming for banana lovers worldwide and a celebration of national banana split day, will be hosted by Dole Fresh Fruit, the City of Latrobe, the Latrobe Art Center, Latrobe Community Revitalization Program and Saint Vincent College on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 23, 24 and 25 in downtown Latrobe and on the Saint Vincent campus in Unity Twp.
Designed to celebrate Latrobe’s unique history as the birthplace of the banana split in 1904 and the placement of a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Historical Marker, the three-day event will be an all-American family celebration for persons of all ages.
Dole’s Bobby Banana (a 6-foot walk-around banana character) and Valley Dairy’s Joe “Ice Cream Joe” Greubel will serve as the honorary co-chairs of the event and participate in the official ceremonies.
The Latrobe Art Center will be doing a countdown to the celebration from July 23 to August 23. During this time period, the center’s eatery, The Neighborhood Café, will offer recipes that are made from Dole products. They will also be uploading those recipes onto their Facebook, Website, Twitter, Mailchimp and Pinterest accounts. The Art Center will also be hosting a Dole pre-party on Tuesday, Aug. 20 during its weekly Tunes-Day Evening in the Park that will incorporate the banana split theme in its music, food and décor. As a special attraction, the original soda fountain from Strickler’s Drug Store, where the world’s first banana split was created, will be displayed in the front window of the Latrobe Art Center. The banana split jelly bean mural, created by 28 children who took part in the Kid’s Art Camp utilizing 30 pounds of jelly beans, will also be on display. It was sponsored by the Quatrini Rafferty Law Firm.
During the entire month of August, Valley Dairy Restaurants will be offering a special banana split ice cream cone for just $1 at the downtown Latrobe, Rt. 30 Wildcat Commons and nine other restaurant locations. Valley Dairy has also commissioned a special “Latrobe First Banana Split” lapel pin that, in conjunction with the restaurant’s 75th anniversary, can be purchased for only 75 cents by anyone who purchases a regular banana split. Others can buy the souvenir pin for $5 at all Valley Dairy restaurants. A banana split mural painted by Gabrielle Nastuck will also go on permanent display at the downtown Latrobe Valley Dairy location.
Friday, Aug. 23
Official festivities will get underway at 11 a.m. on Aug. 23 with a ceremony dedicating the new Pennsylvania state historical marker on Ligonier Street at the site of the original Tassel’s Pharmacy which later became Strickler’s Drug Store. Jarod Trunzo, Latrobe’s director of community engagement and sustainability, will serve as master of ceremonies for the ceremony that will include remarks by elected officials and a presentation by the winner of the Latrobe Art Center’s banana split song contest. Special guests at the dedication will be Dole’s Bobby Banana, Joe Greubel and the entire freshman class of Saint Vincent College which will surround the marker in honor of their predecessors who in 1904 first enjoyed banana splits.
Activities will be centered in the downtown area that will be decorated with bunches of banana balloons, yellow ribbons and bows.
A Dole Banana Daiquiri Cocktail Hour will begin at 6 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Quatrini Rafferty Building. The Touchdown Club II will be handling alcoholic beverages. Food will be available an hour later at the Yellow Tie Gala sponsored by the Latrobe Art Center which gets underway at 7 p.m. The Gala is a special event where men will be asked to wear yellow ties and women anything yellow. Tasty treats will be provided at the Latrobe Art Center’s Neighborhood Café and Chef Mark’s Palate. Valet parking will be offered and patrons can walk the Yellow Carpet into the Art Center. Ligonier Street will be blocked off for the evening and a DJ playing oldies and taking requests will be located outside for dancing in the street. Other offerings include hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, an edible arrangement featuring Dole® fruit products, a do-it-yourself banana split station and a bananas foster station. Wine, beer, coffee and tea will also be available along with non-alcoholic banana drinks. Banana themed cocktails, including DOLE Banana Margaritas and DOLE Banana Daiquiris (with or without alcohol) will be available. Everyone who attends the gala will be invited to have their photograph taken in front of a bigger than life-size banana split sculpture. The cherries will have a hole so that patrons can place their heads in position to be photographed. Photos will be printed that evening. The event ends at 9 p.m.
The Latrobe Art Center’s banana split art exhibit will also open on Aug. 23 and continue through Sept. 27. Ninety-three Latrobe Art Center Gallery members will exhibit banana split-themed paintings and sculptures. Miss Gabi’s Art Club Kids will exhibit 3-D banana splits out of paper mache and the giant banana split will be the center of the exhibit with ice cream clouds suspended from the ceiling. Latrobe Art Center is also coordinating banana split paintings throughout downtown Latrobe. Artwork will also be displayed in businesses throughout town including Valley Dairy, Commercial Bank, Rose Style Shoppe and The Medicine Shoppe.
Saturday, Aug. 24
Starting at various times during the morning of Saturday, Aug. 24 will be a unique event organized by the Latrobe Rotary Club – the Dole Family Stroll, a fun walk/run through the streets of Latrobe with planned stops at a number of retail outlets which will present gifts to those who get a special card punched. Official Great American Banana Split Celebration t-shirts will be presented to the first 300 participants. Everyone will receive a Dole Banana at the finish line.
The Latrobe Business and Professional Women’s Association will be coordinating and hosting a “Banana Ingredient Baking Contest,” from 10 a.m. to noon in the Quatrini Rafferty Building.
An old-fashioned family fair will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday sponsored by several community based non-profits coordinated by the Hope Center of Latrobe. It will feature mini banana split sundaes, banana ice cream cones, cotton candy, popcorn, French fries, face painters, caricatures and entertainment.
A car hop will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday sponsored by the Latrobe Lions Club. It will feature more than 50 antique and classic automobiles lined up along the north side of Depot Street.
The popular barbershop quartet Heart ‘n Soul from Somerset will be performing traditional favorites both inside and outside the downtown Latrobe Valley Dairy from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A malt shop sock hop dance will keep the fun going from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday at the Latrobe Art Center for a family fun night out. Ligonier Street will be blocked off and 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. Attendees are encouraged to dust off their poodle skirts and saddle shoes and prepare to go back to the fabulous 1950s for shaking, rattling and rolling with a night of food, dancing and fun. The public is encouraged to dress in 50s garb but it is not required. Suggested attire includes long skirts, blue jeans, white button shirts and ponytails for the women and white t-shirts, blue jeans, leather jackets and slicked back hair for the men. Food offerings include sliders and French fries, root beer floats, banana split smoothies, cotton candy, chocolate covered bananas and a banana split bar. Waiters on roller skates will be passing food. During the evening, a hula hoop contest is set for 6:30 p.m., a limbo contest at 7:30 p.m. and a bubble gum blowing contest at 8:30 p.m. A special children’s section will provide an opportunity for 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.
Sunday, Aug. 25
On Sunday afternoon, the celebration moves to the Saint Vincent College campus where area residents will join students on the turf at Chuck Noll Field for the world’s first and largest banana peeling flash mob. Participants are encouraged to bring a banana but Dole will have bunches on hand for those who don’t. The assembly will proudly raise their bananas skyward in a torch-like fashion as Dole’s Bobby Banana and Joe “Ice Cream Joe” Greubel count down and give the signal to peel their bananas in unison for videographers and cameras which will capture the unusual proceedings for immediate posting on social media networks and other media outlets.
The fun concludes in the Robert S. Carey Student Center gymnasium where several do-it-yourself banana split bars will be set up so that everyone can enjoy an original Latrobe banana split or a more healthy variation, courtesy of Dole Fresh Fruit.
Photos: Joseph “Ice Cream Joe” Greubel and Dole’s Bobby Banana will serve as honorary co-chairpersons of the Great American Banana Split Celebration.
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Nick Felice, Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, 724-805-0112
Gabrielle Nastuck, Latrobe Art Center, 724-537-7011
Don Orlando, Saint Vincent College, 724-805-2010
Bob Ochsner or Collin Whitley, Dole Fresh Fruit, 714-881-2341
Jarod Trunzo or Alex Graziani, City of Latrobe, 724-539-8548