About The Split
The original Hazard's Restaurant, pictured here in 1907 with a "Banana Split" advertisement above the counter.
It's become a major topic of debate in two neighboring states - Ohio and Pennsylvania - and it's all over food. It may sound silly, but to Wilmington, Ohio it's an issue worth fighting for, if only figuratively. food in question is the all-American banana split, and the debate itself over who first "invented" this well-know ice cream dessert.
After nearly a century of hearing how the banana split received its birth, the people of Wilmington went so far as to preserve the claim, that they created a festival in its name. Ever increasing exposure for the festival brought Latrobe, Pennsylvania's claim to surface several years ago. Their claim boasts of its creation three years prior to Wilmington's, but it's a claim Wilmington refuses to accept.
The people of Wilmington stand by their claim and even brought the family of the dessert's creator, Ernest Hazard, to the Banana Split Festival several years ago to recognize his role in influencing Americana. Hazard's grandson and daughter shared in this historical event.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In downtown Wilmington, there used to be a restaurant called Hazard's. The proprietor of the restaurant was Ernest Hazard. Like most merchants in Wilmington today he wanted to find a way to attract the students of Wilmington College to come to his restaurant.
It was a very blustery winter in 1907, so business was slow and the employees didn't have a whole lot of work to do. So Hazard decided that a good way to get some business was to create a new dish that was so unique everyone would want to try it. So he offered to furnish unlimited ingredients to the employees and have a contest to see who could come up with the most unusual dish.
Surprisingly enough, the winner of the contest was Ernest Hazard. He took a long dessert dish, arranged a peeled banana and three scoops of ice cream in it, and added a shot of chocolate syrup, a little strawberry jam, and a few bits of pineapple. On top of this, he sprinkled some ground nuts, and garnished his invention with a mountain of whipped cream and two red cherries on its peak.
After winning the contest Hazard faced another dilemma. What would he name the dish? Some help was needed with this aspect of public relations, so Hazard enlisted the opinion of his cousin, Clifton Hazard, for the job.
Hazard made the concoction for Clifton and asked him to take a taste test. He then told him that he had an idea in mind for the name, a banana split. Upon hearing that, Clifton told him that he didn't think that the name was one that would help him get any extra publicity. He didn't think that anyone would ever walk in and ask for something called a banana split.
There are those who might dispute Wilmington's claim, but nevertheless, thousands of people will flock to Wilmington to sample an old-fashioned banana split during the second weekend in June. They'll also hear the story that has endured the years of how Hazard created the first banana split.
Festival goers will still enjoy the many food booths and craft and collectible booths promoting the 50s and 60s, a classic car cruise in, games for the entire family, and free entertainment. But the highlight for most will be the "build your own" banana split booth.