“Let’s go get some ice cream,” I suggested to my mom. The fact that it was 17 degrees outside didn’t dent my desire for the cold, creamy stuff that heaven is made of. A trip for ice cream is almost mandatory whenever I visit family in my hometown of Le Mars (25 miles north of Sioux City), the official Ice Cream Capital of the World and hometown of Blue Bunny Ice Cream.
My history with Blue Bunny goes way back. As a child, my dad lived next door to the company founders, the Wells, and so claims he was one of the first tasters. Every cobbler and pie my mom put on our dinner table was topped by Blue Bunny, and—joy of joys!—on your birthday, you determined what flavor Mom would buy. I always chose butter brickle.
Today I’d have more trouble choosing because there are so many flavors—more than 70 at any given time. The company expanded to multiple facilities, including the granddaddy of ice cream storage: a block-long, 12-story, windowless freezer that holds 53,000 pallets and stores more than 150 million gallons produced a year.
Bundled up, Mom and I head to the Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor, marked by a giant sundae out front. In 2011, the parlor relocated from its original US-75 location to a downtown historical building restored with dark wood, a grand staircase and a marble ice cream bar. The cozy atmosphere is the antidote to the frigid day. Mindful of the cold, we ordered a hot fudge sundae—double-dip size. Thankfully whoever made it can’t count; the sundae had twice as many scoops all drenched in warm sauce and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Mom’s and my spoons vied for bites. Yum!
Diners choose from more than 30 ice cream flavors and 11 toppings or select one of the specialty sundaes, cones, sodas, malts, shakes and floats. Every time I’ve stopped in, there’s been a steady stream of visitors: kids and parents after ball games, friends celebrating birthdays, motorcyclists riding in from a neighboring town or, like the couple I met from Washington state on my last visit, folks who just think ice cream is a great excuse for a detour.
A trip to the parlor is a must-stop in a town that has ice cream at its heart. Fifty-eight ice cream cone sculptures dot Le Mars, a tribute to the fact that more ice cream is made here than any other place in the world. Blue Bunny Ice Cream has put the town on the map, but for this former resident, it’s the sweet taste of home.
by Virginia Nemmers, Midwest Living executive editor