In 1904, David Strickler of Tassel Pharmacy in Latrobe, Pa., dished up a whimsical treat for local students of nearby Saint Vincent College that would become the definitive American dessert — the banana split. More than a century (109 years) later, the City of Latrobe, Saint Vincent College and Dole Fresh Fruit are teaming up to honor the iconic, triple-scoop treat and the city where it all began by hosting a three-day banana split celebration designed as a homecoming for banana lovers worldwide. The Great American Banana Split Celebration , August 23-25 in Latrobe, features three days of ceremonies, tastings, run/walks, parties and dances commemorating the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania designation of Latrobe as the official banana split birthplace and culminating in the world’s largest banana split bar at Saint Vincent College on National Banana Split Day, Aug. 25. “While Latrobe has always been considered the home of the banana split, this state designation makes it official,” explained Latrobe Mayor Barbara Griffin. “We see this as the definitive small-town homecoming event for anyone who loves bananas and banana splits. Since almost all American families buy and eat bananas, we expect a lot of out-of-area visitors that weekend.” Dole Fresh Fruit, based in Westlake Village, Calif., is a title sponsor of the event and will be supporting by providing thousands of DOLE ® Bananas and recipes for banana-themed salads, entrees, cocktails and traditional and healthier banana splits made with Greek yogurt, sorbet, honey, pomegranates and fresh berries. “DOLE is America’s favorite banana – so it makes perfect sense for us to honor America’s favorite dessert and the now-official city where it was created,” said Bil Goldfield, Dole’s director of corporate communications. “Of course, this being Dole, one of our goals is to introduce healthier versions of the famously decadent sundae with less calories and fat. We’re out to show that it is possible to eat smart and still enjoy your banana split, too.”
The Latrobe Art Center, Latrobe Community Revitalization Program, Latrobe Rotary Club, Valley Dairy Restaurants, Latrobe Business and Professional Women's Club, Latrobe Lions Club, Westmoreland Hope in Action and other local nonprofit and for-profit organizations are helping to organize the event.Kicking off the weekend is the Aug. 23 unveiling of an official Pennsylvania historical marker at the downtown Latrobe site of the former Tassel Pharmacy where the banana split was first created by apprentice pharmacist Strickler in 1904. Participating in the ceremony will be Bobby Banana, the DOLE brand’s iconic banana character; Valley Dairy Restaurant founder “Ice Cream Joe” Greubel, a personal friend of the Strickler family; and the entire Saint Vincent College freshman class. The winner of the Banana Split Theme Song Contest hosted by the Latrobe Art Center will open the ceremony by playing his or her winning song. Other Aug. 23 highlights include the DOLE Banana Yellow-Tie Gala, featuring Dole Banana Daiquiris and a banana- themed multimedia art show at the Quatrini-Rafferty Building and the Latrobe Art Center, and on Ligonier Street between the two buildings. Guests will be able to walk down a “yellow-banana road” and swing to lively music. Festivities continue on Aug. 24 with a “Dole Family Stroll” fun walk/run followed by a car rally, banana-themed street fair and 1950’s malt shop sock hop. Roller-skating servers will offer sliders, French fries, banana split smoothies and chocolate-covered bananas and banana fans can try their luck at hula-hoop, limbo and bubble-gum-blowing contests. On Aug. 25, Saint Vincent College’s Chuck Noll Field, home of the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, will host the world’s largest banana gathering and flash mob event. Dole’s Bobby Banana and “Ice Cream Joe” Greubel will count down as hundreds of college students and other banana lovers peel their bananas in unison. Free DOLE Bananas will be provided.
Participants will then use their just-peeled bananas to create personalized desserts at the world’s largest do-it-yourself banana split bar in Saint Vincent’s Robert S. Carey Student Center. The giant dessert social, which features both traditional and healthier banana split options, coincides with the return of the college’s sophomore, junior and senior students for the fall semester.“Saint Vincent College students have always been proud that they were the first in the world to eat banana splits,” said Brother Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president of the Catholic, Benedictine, liberal arts and sciences college. “Banana split bars are one of Saint Vincent’s sweetest campus traditions. It brings a smile to the faces of students, parents and other visitors. Our students are serious about their studies – and their banana splits.” To encourage visitors from throughout the country, Latrobe-area hotels, restaurants and other businesses are offering event-themed travel packages, discounts and promotions. Examples include the SpringHill Suites Pittsburgh-Latrobe, owned by Latrobe favorite son Arnold Palmer, and Valley Dairy Restaurants, which are selling $1 banana split ice cream cones and 75-cent commemorative lapel pins with the purchase of a banana split in August. For travel deals, contact the Latrobe Area Chamber of Commerce at (724) 537-2671 or www.latrobearea.com/. All but a few of the dozens of Great American Banana Split Celebration events and activities are free and open to the public. For more information, including a detailed schedule of events, go to www.cityoflatrobe.com. For more information on DOLE Bananas, including recipes, serving suggestions and other information, go to www.dole.com/peelthelove or follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dolebananas or www.twitter.com/dolebananas, respectively. About The City of Latrobe With its relatively small size and proximity to Pittsburgh, the City of Latrobe affords its residents a full service community nestled within one of Pennsylvania’s most beautiful regions. Home to great neighborhoods, excellent education, the arts, growing parks and recreation as well as strong manufacturing presence, Latrobe is not only a great place to visit, but also an ideal community to call home. Latrobe is recognized as the birthplace of the original banana split, Mr. Fred Rogers, Arnold Palmer, and the first ever professional football team! From its foundation in 1854, Latrobe’s proud past is felt amongst its many current residents, while its future remains aligned to its great heritage as the quintessential American town. To read more, visit www.cityoflatrobe.com. About Saint Vincent College Saint Vincent College is a liberal arts and sciences college with a diverse student population of nearly 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Sponsored by the Catholic, Benedictine monks of Saint Vincent Archabbey, it was founded in 1846 and was the first Benedictine college in the United States. Saint Vincent College’s quality educational programs have earned national recognition by U.S. News and World Report (First Tier of National Liberal Arts Colleges) and Forbes business magazine (America’s Best Colleges). Saint Vincent takes special pride in its more than 12,000 alumni who live in all 50 states and in 28 foreign countries. They serve society in the fields of business management, education, finance, medicine, religion, law, government, sales, engineering, computer technology and many others. For information, visit www.stvincent.edu. About DOLE Bananas DOLE is the top-selling banana in America and the world — in both conventional and organic product categories. From its founding by James Drummond Dole, the company has built its reputation on a ceaseless commitment to quality. Today, the DOLE brand stands for more than 150 years of quality produce — and the world’s largest supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables, including bananas. Dole strives to grow, produce, harvest, transport and distribute its bananas and other produce in the most environmentally and socially conscious way possible. For information, go to http://www.dole.com/Products/Fresh-Fruits/Bananas. About Dole Food Company, Inc. Dole Food Company with 2012 revenues of $4.2 billion, is one of the world’s largest producers and marketers of high-quality fresh fruit and fresh vegetables, Dole is an industry leader in many of the products it sells, as well as in nutrition education and research. For more information, please visit www.dole.com or http://investors.dole.com.