THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD by Mike Dudurich
The celebration of the birthplace of the banana split is about to hit the big time. After two years of being put on by the Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, the event will be hosted and produced by the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2015.
The event, which will be held August 28- 30, will have a new name as well. It will now be known as the “Valley Dairy Great American Banana Split Celebration presented by Excela Health.” And, just as importantly, the event will be filled with a variety of activities and events for everybody.
“Valley Dairy Restaurants has been part of the Latrobe community for almost 77 years, and we are proud to sponsor an event that brings recognition to our town and to the banana split that was created here,” said Virginia Greubel, Valley Dairy Restaurants’ Director of Marketing. “Valley Dairy Restaurants serves a banana split that closely resembles the original one created by Dr. Strickler. As Ice Cream Joe says, “It’s a very ‘appealing’ dessert!
There will be a kids corner with face painting, balloons, prizes and toys and a banana split coloring wall. An outdoor adventure area will feature a rock climbing wall, wood carving events, inflatables and ice carving events. The 5K Dole Stroll will this year be a fully-timed and chipped race. There will be unique medals, t-shirts and awards. A skate hop, sock hop, YPG Color Dash, a Great American Pie Eating Contest, featuring banana cream pie, of course, as well as food, drink and vendors will be part of the celebration.
“Excela Health is pleased to be a presenting sponsor for the Banana Split Celebration. Just as the banana split is synonymous with Latrobe, so too is Latrobe Hospital, and they share an equally long legacy. In fact, Strickler’s Drug Store, the birthplace of the banana split, is featured in the hospital’s History Corridor, where we celebrate the early days of pharmacy and the important role they played in the health and well-being of our community,” said Maryann Singley, Vice President of Patient Care Services, Excela Latrobe Hospital.
On the 28th (Friday), there will be a Yellow Tie Gala at the Latrobe Art Center. It’s a semi-formal event with heavy hors d’oeuvres, wine and yes, a banana split bar. Tickets for that event are $40 and are available at the Latrobe Art Center.
“This is the third year of the festival and it’s a wonderful thing for our community. I hope everybody is as excited about it as I am and support it and help it to grow,” said Latrobe mayor Rosie Wolford. “It’s a day for the community. I’m a firm believer we should remember and celebrate our history, and this is a great way to do that.”
The event has grown in its’ first two years and that growth is expected to continue in a big way this summer.
“It started out as a hometown thing,” said Jim Okonak, the executive director of the McFeely-Rogers Foundation. “If Punxsutawney can do what they did with Phil, imagine what we can do. This could become an important thing for the Greater Latrobe area. It’s great for Latrobe. We’ve gotten some great exposure from this already.”
“The re-imagined event has amazing momentum and can be a true signature event for the city of Latrobe and the region,” said GLLV president David Martin. “Some of the event’s elements will have a regional draw and that is a win-win for the entire Greater Latrobe area.”
Nothing goes better with an old-fashioned banana split than a big concert, and that’s exactly what will happen during the Valley Dairy Great American Banana Split Festival presented by Excela Health.
Headlining the concert at Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium on August 29 will be The Clarks, the rock-and-roll band founded at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1986 that has thrilled audiences around Western Pennsylvania and beyond ever since.
“The Clarks have played the Latrobe area on a number of occasions, though none recently. We played at the Rolling Rock Town Fair … which was an amazing experience,” said Greg Joseph, bass player for The Clarks. The band is made up of locals to Western Pennsylvania: Scott Blasey, Connellsville native, who lives in Peters Twp; Rob James, a North Allegheny native, who currently lives in Beaver, PA; Greg Joseph, a North Allegheny native, who lives in Hampton Twp, PA; and Dave Minarik of Mercer, PA, former resident of Natrona Heights. All were IUP students and honored as IUP Distinguished Alumni.
Local singer/songwriter Jessica Saenz will open the show before a performance from Lovebettie, a nationally known touring band from Latrobe recently named a “band to watch” by Rolling Stone magazine.
Tickets for the concert will be $15, with student tickets available at $10 with student ID. There will also be standing floor tickets next to the stage for $20.