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Banana split fest celebrates Latrobe’s sweet claim to fame

September 10, 2018

One of Latrobe’s sweetest claims to fame, the ice cream banana split, takes center stage Aug. 24 to 26 for the sixth annual Great American Banana Split Celebration.

Tom Webb, director of operations for Valley Dairy Restaurants, a locally owned company that will open its 12th location in Belle Vernon this November, estimates they will dish up 3,000 banana splits in three Latrobe locations -- two restaurants and a satellite location downtown -- during the three-day celebration.

“That’s a lot of scooping,” Webb says.

Latrobe holds the distinction -- with a state historical marker to prove it -- of being the birthplace of the triple-dip, three-flavor ice cream dessert that was invented in 1904 by David Strickler, who worked in the former Tassel’s Pharmacy in Latrobe.

He later studied at the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy, bought the drugstore and renamed it Strickler’s Pharmacy.

Festival highlights

This year’s festival hosted by Valley Dairy Restaurants and the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce will feature two stages of entertainment, including a performance by teen singer Aubrey Burchell of Irwin, a 2018 “American Idol” contestant.

Chamber president Briana Tomack says other highlights include appearances all weekend by world yo-yo champion Tyler Severance of Philadelphia demonstrating his skills with the string-controlled toy and a visit on Sunday from Steel City Gamerz Mobile Game Truck.

Friday’s festivities will include a pep rally and performance by Lovebettie from 4:30 to 6 p.m., after which bands and cheerleaders from Greater Latrobe and Derry Area high schools will escort fans to Latrobe Memorial Stadium for their schools’ season opening football game at 7 p.m.

Saturday activities include a 5K Banana Run starting at 9 a.m. with registration at 7:30 a.m., an Eat ’n Park Pie Eating Contest at 1:30 p.m. and fireworks at dark.

A car cruise benefiting Relay for Life will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at Westmoreland County Community College Latrobe Campus. Annapolis, Md.-based party-rock cover band Vertigo Red will perform at 7 p.m. on the Sendell Motors stage.

Sunday’s schedule features a Monkey Business Fun Run from noon-2 p.m. at the stadium, and performances by The Dance Factory at 11 a.m., the Joe Porembka Orchestra Tribute Band from noon-2 p.m. and alternative folk rock singer-songwriter and guitarist Alan Getto at 2:30 p.m., all on the Dollar Bank Stage.

Summer’s last hurrah

The Chamber president says the Great American Banana Split Celebration brings a lot of people to the region; last year’s estimated attendance was 30,000 over the three days.

“It’s a fun family activity and the last hurrah of summer before school starts,” she says. “It’s also a good reason to eat ice cream.”

For those who fancy the idea of ice cream for breakfast, the Valley Dairy Restaurant location at 1120 Jefferson St., Latrobe, will be selling banana splits beginning at 7 a.m. each day during the three-day celebration.

Entertainment schedule

Aug. 24

Dollar Bank Stage

Noon: Sarina and Caterina Neal

1:30 p.m.: Hayley Dailey

2:30 p.m.: East Creek Road

4:30 p.m.: Lovebettie

Aug. 25

Dollar Bank Stage

Noon: Scott Hall, the One Man Band

3: p.m.: Jane West and Joe Golden

4:30 p.m.: Aubrey Burchell

7 p.m.: Vertigo Red

Sendell Motors Stage

Noon: Sarina and Caterina Neal

2 p.m.: Big Blitz

3:30 p.m.: Good Old Ernie

5 p.m.: Henry Bachorski and the Eddy Aug. 26

Dollar Bank Stage

Noon: Joe Porembka Orchestra Tribute Band

2:30 p.m.: Alan Getto

Sendell Motors Stage

Noon: Lindsey Dragan

1:15 p.m.: Mike Berginc

2:15 p.m.: Shay

3:15 p.m.: Adam Fitz