Latrobe's Great American Banana Split Celebration promises weekend of sweet treats
In 1904, at a pharmacy on Latrobe's Ligonier Street, an iconic dessert, the banana split, was born.
Now in its third year, the Valley Dairy Great American Banana Split Celebration presented by Excela Health will celebrate its inventor, Dr. David Strickler, and the three-scoop treat in grand fashion, said Allen Martello, marketing and events director for the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Chamber of Commerce.
An historical marker was dedicated by the state in 2013 to honor the 23-year-old pharmacist apprentice who created the banana split at Tassel Pharmacy.
“We had folks here in Latrobe that fought for us to get that recognition,” Martello said. “We're really proud of Dr. Strickler's accomplishment 111 years ago, and now we've got an opportunity to show the world, and we're really excited for that.”
The festival has activities planned all weekend, including about 70 vendors and a concert featuring fireworks Saturday night at Memorial Stadium. The rain-or-shine event is still in search of volunteers. Parking is free in all public city lots for the weekend.
For updates, check the festival's website, bananasplitfest.com, or Facebook and Twitter pages.
Friday, Aug. 28
• Noon to 8 p.m. — Food, drink and vendors throughout downtown Latrobe.
• 1 to 5 p.m. — Ice-carving demonstrations and outdoor adventure activities at Legion Keener Park, 1658 Catherine St.
• Noon to 6 p.m. — The Jock-ular Juggler entertainment at Rogers Memorial Park, Jefferson and Depot streets.
• 6 p.m. — Greater Latrobe Wildcats football scrimmage vs. Moon Area Tigers at Memorial Stadium, 131 Irving Ave.
• 6:30 p.m. — Yellow-Tie Gala at Latrobe Art Center, 819 Ligonier St.
Rich Bubin, owner of Ice Creations in Churchill, will carve ice sculptures during the festival. He captained the 2002 U.S. Ice Carving team at the Salt Lake City Olympics, and is a Guinness World Record holder. He has performed at Kennywood Park, Light Up Night and First Night in Pittsburgh in addition to participation in DiSalvo's Restaurant's “Taste the Good Life” event for 20 years.
“I always try to get the kids involved in my shows,” he said. “I'll make them souvenirs for them. It's a lot of fun.”
American eagles and Harley-Davidson motorcycles are among his most popular sculptures, he said.
Bob Nickerson, known as the Jock-ular Juggler, combines his sense of humor and juggling while performing on Friday and Saturday during the festival. From Cresson, Nickerson has been featured in Sports Illustrated, performed at the White House, and made the rounds on network television shows such as “Good Morning America,” “CBS This Morning” and “NBC Evening News.”
“Over the years, it's become an obsession with me, but it's a fun obsession,” he said.
Local band Life of Brian will perform just before a football scrimmage to begin the season for Greater Latrobe's Wildcats as they face the Moon Area Tigers.
The semiformal Yellow-Tie Gala includes a yellow carpet, music and a banana split bar. Participants are encouraged to wear yellow, but the RSVP deadline for tickets was Tuesday.
Saturday, Aug. 29
• 8:30 a.m. — 5K Banana Run registration begins with race start at 9:30 a.m. at Memorial Stadium.
• 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Latrobe Lion's Club Car Cruise in DiSalvo's Station Restaurant parking lot, 325 McKinley Ave.
• 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Children's Corner with face painting and other activities at Medicine Shoppe, 709 Ligonier St.
• 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. — Professor Style's Miracle Elixir Sideshow and the Jock-ular Juggler entertainment at Rogers Memorial Park, Jefferson and Depot streets.
• 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. — Food, drink and vendors throughout downtown Latrobe.
•11 a.m. — Registration begins for Eat ‘N Park Great American Pie-Eating Contest with event at 11:30 a.m. at Rogers Memorial Park
• 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Ice carving demonstrations and outdoor adventure activities at Legion Keener Park.
• 11:30 a.m. — Latrobe Business and Professional Women's Banana-Inspired Baking Contest entries accepted with judging from noon to 1 p.m., auction at 1:15 p.m. and bake sale at 1:30 p.m. in Quatrini-Rafferty building, 816 Ligonier St.
• Noon to 6 p.m. — Olde Latrobe Craft Beer Village at DiSalvo's Station Restaurant
• 7 p.m. — Concert featuring Jessica Saenz, Lovebettie and The Clarks with fireworks at Memorial Stadium
In past years, the festival hosted a Dole Stroll through downtown Latrobe. Now the 5K Banana Run will feature chip-timing, medals, T-shirts and awards. Registration is $20 online through the festival's website, or $25 the day of the event.
Michael Mykita will lead the three-person Miracle Elixir Show, which will perform Saturday and Sunday at the festival. Mykita of Mars plays the role of Professor Nicodemus Styles.
“We've combined an old circus sideshow with a medicine show and a snake oil salesman,” said Mykita, including stunts like lying on a bed of nails, eating fire and consuming broken glass.
The group was recently honored among the “Best of the Burgh” by Pittsburgh Magazine and has performed at various events in Pittsburgh.
Participants in the Eat ‘N Park Great American Pie-Eating Contest will have to be prepared to eat an entire banana cream pie, but whoever scarfs down the dessert in the fastest time will win the championship title. Andrew Lazarchik, Latrobe native and owner of Wildcat Championship Belts, created a special championship belt for the winner, to whom it will be presented during The Clarks concert. The winner's name will be engraved on the belt, for display at the Neighborhood Visitor and Information Center, 3960 Route 30. The winner will be given a trophy to keep. Participants in the contest must be 18 or older and can sign up online at the festival's website.
A baking contest organized by the Latrobe chapter of Business and Professional Women will select a “top banana” among entries.
Participants can enter four banana categories with cakes (one cake), breads (one loaf), cupcakes (one dozen) and cookies (one dozen). All entries must use a banana in the recipe and be delivered in a disposable container. No refrigerated items can be entered, and only one entry per category is allowed.
In the “top banana” category, the same rules apply, but entries must include banana and three of the following: pineapple, strawberry, chocolate, peanuts or maraschino cherries.
“The judges have a hard job; they really do,” said Jean Calabrace, BPW president.
Winners of each category will receive prizes and ribbons.
Four breweries, wine and cigars will be featured at the Olde Latrobe Craft Beer Village. Tickets to the event are $25 and include a complimentary cigar and 10 tasting tickets for wine and beers from Unity-based Four Seasons, Greensburg-based All Saints, Mt. Pleasant-based Helltown and Pittsburgh-based Penn Brewery. Food and additional cigars will be sold separately.
Regional favorite rock band The Clarks will headline a concert capped with fireworks. Founded at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1986, The Clarks sell 250,000 albums locally each year and perform about 150 live shows. The group performed on “Late Show with David Letterman” in 2004.
Irwin native Jessica Saenz and rock band Lovebettie, named one of Rolling Stone magazine's “bands to watch,” will open for The Clarks. Tickets, available online or at the gate, cost $15. Student tickets are available for $10. Floor tickets to stand next to the stage cost $20.
Sunday, Aug. 30
• 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Food, drink and vendors throughout downtown Latrobe
• 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Professor Style's Miracle Elixir Sideshow entertainment at Rogers Memorial Park
• 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. — Children's Corner with face painting and other activities at Medicine Shoppe
• 10:30 a.m. — YPG Color Dash 5K run packet pickup; 12:30 p.m. race begins at Memorial Stadium
• 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Ice carving demonstrations and outdoor adventure activities at Legion Keener Park
The Color Dash 5K is the same distance over the same course as the banana run, but each participant will be provided with a white T-shirt, then racers and other participants along the course can throw powdered paint at one another.
Cheerleaders from St. Vincent College and freshman students will be among the participants and racers, who are welcome to participate regardless of age or fitness level. Registration is $25 to $40 for individuals, teams or families online at the festival's website.
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.