I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream…For the Annual Ice Cream Social!
Anna Harris, Development Intern, Evanston History Center

On Saturday July 23, 2016, the Evanston History Center will host its annual ice cream social. The annual free event- known for its old-fashioned music, magic, face painting, carnival games, and of course, delicious Andy’s custard- has become a fun summer tradition for Evanston residents and friends.

But what many may not know is that the Evanston History Center (then, the Evanston Historical Society) held its first ice cream social in 1985. At that time, there was only star of the social: the often contentious, always delicious ice cream sundae. Evanston is one of a few towns that lay claim to the origin of the ice cream sundae. The 1985 ice cream social invitation (depicted below) relayed the origin of the ice cream sundae as told in a 1930 Reader’s Digest article. In brief, the Evanston origin story states that in late 19th century Evanston, nicknamed “Heavenston” for its Methodist leanings, there was an ordinance prohibiting sale of ice cream sodas on Sunday. In response, the “ingenious” Evanston confectioners sold ice cream with syrup but without soda. Soon, everyone was asking for a ‘Sunday!’ After objections were raised over christening such a sinful treat after the Sabbath, the name was changed to Sundae, and the rest is history (or at least, that’s how Evanstonians see it!)

After the 1985 ice cream social, the Evanston History Center did not host another ice cream social until 2003- perhaps everyone was in a sugar coma or giving frozen yogurt a try. However, since 2003, Evanston’s ice cream pride has not waned: the EHC has hosted an Ice Cream Social annually from 2003 to 2016 “to celebrate our city’s history and the ice cream sundae connection.” And, for those without a sweet tooth or those who enjoy their ice cream with a side of entertainment, the EHC expanded beyond ice cream to include an array of other free entertainment options. For instance, in 2003, at the Victorian Ice Cream Social, visitors enjoyed old-fashioned slot music, carnival games, and ‘visits’ from some famous Evanstonians such as architect Daniel Burnham and social reformer Frances Willard. In 2004, at the Roaring 20s ice cream social, visitors learned the Charleston, watched silent movies, and got their antiques appraised. And, in 2005, at the Civil War Ice Cream social, our 16th president himself made a visit!

So what can visitors expect at this year’s ice cream social? On Saturday, July 23, from 1-4 PM, there will be free popcorn, lemonade, and Andy’s custard served (while supplies last) at the Evanston History Center at 225 Greenwood Street. Visitors can wander the Dawes House lawn, indulging in ice cream and trying their hand at vintage carnival games, all while listening to the Ridgeville Band perform old-fashioned hits. Visitors of all ages will enjoy Kevin Kelly’s magic show. As the day winds down, don’t forget to take advantage of free access to the Dawes house; just leave the ice cream behind! Faces painted and stomachs full, visitors will leave having added their contribution to Evanston’s historic and “ongoing love affair with ice cream.”

We hope you will join us for the Ice Cream Social on Saturday, July 23 from 1-4 PM at the Evanston History Center 225 Greenwood Street, Evanston, Illinois.