For some, a banana split is a tasty treat, a symbol of summer or a welcomed bellyache waiting to happen. For others, the banana split is a way of life.
The Great American Banana Split Celebration, which celebrates Latrobe’s history as the birthplace of the split, will be held on Aug. 23, 24 and 25 in downtown Latrobe and on the Saint Vincent campus in Unity Township. Part of this celebration is the Banana Split Theme Song Contest, in which one former Indiana resident is competing.
Liz Youngmayer Hand, a 1982 graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, is one of 10 finalists in the contest with her song “A Latrobe Hit — The Banana Split,” hoping to become the next “Banana Split Idol.”
Once upon a time in “Old” Latrobe, Hand explained, a beautiful lady walked into Strickler’s Drug Store, where ice cream was served, and said, “can you do something special for me?” The man whipped up a banana split. Thus, the banana split was born, and now Latrobe hosts the celebration in honor of National Banana Split Day, calling itself “an official homecoming for banana lovers worldwide.”
When she found out about the contest, Hand said the writing came naturally.
“It was really easy because I was 16 when I served my first banana split at the Monroeville Mall,” she said. “I did a little research to remind myself what was in that banana split.”
Instead of spelling out a recipe in the song, she said, she wanted the song to be something that everyone, young and old, could relate to and remember.
Different people were involved in the production of the song.
“I just kind of wrote the poetry end of it … and then I found a friend in Latrobe who had a musical family and we approached a business that had the counter, the fixings, the toppings, and we just put it all together.”
Filmed at Dairy Queen in Latrobe, she said that they used as many people at the restaurant as possible.
Though the music video for the contest was filmed at the Dairy Queen, the best banana splits, in Hand’s opinion, come from Valley Dairy.
“Although I’ll eat ice cream anywhere, I really like authentic banana splits,” she said.
She has received her commemorative banana split pin from the restaurant, which costs 75 cents after buying the split.
In preparation for the celebration, including the Yellow Tie Gala that will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at the Latrobe Art Center, Hand has stocked up on banana-themed items.
“I’ve bought a yellow umbrella, yellow bangle bracelets,” she said.
At the gala, the top five performers in the theme-song contest will perform. The winner will then be unveiled.
The gala will include Dole Banana Daiquiri Cocktail Hour, a ribbon-cutting and music, and guests can even get their picture taken in front of a giant banana split.
Tickets for the gala are $35 and must be purchased in advance by visiting the Latrobe Art Center website.
Before the celebration, the art center will host a Dole Pre-Party on Aug. 20 during its weekly Tunes-Day evening in the park that will include banana split-themed music, food and d?cor. The original fountain from Strickler’s Drug Store will be displayed in the front window of the center.
Other events going on throughout the weekend include a malt shop sock hop dance, where attendees are encouraged to wear their poodle skirts, and pre-celebration activities such as the Banana Split Preview Party on Aug. 20, where all 10 finalists will perform.
For the remainder of August, Valley Dairy Restaurants in Latrobe will be offering a banana split ice cream cone for $1.
PHOTO: Liz Hand, left, visited the Valley Dairy restaurant in Indiana this week to stump for votes for her entry in the Banana Split Theme Song Contest. She is with waitress Nikki Cymbor. (Submitted photo)