Life is sweet in the ‘Ice Cream Capital of the World’

Life is sweet in the 'Ice Cream Capital of the World'
A visit to LeMars, IA – the "Ice Cream Capital of the World" – brought back lots of memories for me.

I thought of the time I spent dishing up frozen stuff in the late 1930s at Drier's Creamery – for 15 cents an hour.

We used to put in 10 hours or more each day, satisfying the sweet teeth of the community, and – after the last five cent double-dip cone was delivered sometime after midnight – I usually got $1.50 for my efforts.

But the $1.50 was mine. All mine!

Fred H. Wells started it all in LeMars in 1913 when he had a ceremony, probably just like Harry Drier's. He (Fred) delivered milk by a horse-drawn wagon. He also made Wells' ice cream.

That was the beginning of the family-owned business which is currently managed by third and fourth generations and which now makes more than 120 million gallons of ice cream annually, the most made by a single company in one location than anywhere in the world.

No wonder the LeMars Chamber of Commerce says "Life Is Sweet" there!

The name Blue Bunny came about in 1935 when a young lad (one of the founder's sons?) spotted an azure rabbit in a store window, and he like it. Of course the company ran a "Name the Ice Cream" contest and who should be the winner but the boy who spotted the Blue Bunny.

The winner was announced in a Sioux City paper. But it was a put-up job no less – at least that's the way I heard it. The Wells name became secondary, and the Blue Bunny reigned supreme on all of the company's products, including yogurt for the diet-conscious.

We toured the visitor center museum and learned more about Blue Bunny than we wanted to know. We even saw the original artwork of the rabbit submitted by George Vanden Brink in 1935 "Name the Ice Cream" contest.

To rest our weary feet, we took in two movies in the Fred H. Wells Theatre, one after the other. First we heard about the history of the product and how the ice cream cone was invented.

Then we saw From Cow to Wow – a light-hearted video presentation about modern ice cream manufacturing, advertised as "Udderly Moo-velous."

Sated with more information about the Blue Bunny product, we proceeded to the Ice Cream Parlor – skipping the usual gift shop – to try some of what we had learned about. It came with a cherry on top!

Now about LeMars, it's not a French name after all. It seems as though six women were asked to name the new town. They were Lucy Underhill, Elizabeth Parsons, Mary Weare, Anna Blair, Rebecca Smith and Sara Reynolds. They took the initial of their first names and came up with LeMars which was forthwith adopted, so the saying goes.

Now you've heard the rest of the story!

We can't leave LeMars without telling you about the former campus of Western Union College (which became Westmar).

It is thriving as a number of businesses have taken over the buildings – but they don't sponsor a football team!

© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz

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