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The History of the Dairy Festival Ice Cream Freeze-Off

The History of the Dairy Festival Ice Cream Freeze-Off
  • PublishedJune 7, 2023

The Ice Cream Freeze-Off is one of the Hopkins County Dairy Festival’s most delicious events. This year it will take place June 10 at 5 p.m. at Shannon Oaks Church, with $5 all-you-can-eat tickets. But do you know the history of this scrumptious competition?

Prior to 1980, several Hopkins County communities held their own Freeze-Offs throughout the spring and summer, but the tradition was not centralized. Sulphur Bluff and North Hopkins both had notable community Freeze-Offs. 

However, the origins of Hopkins County’s modern Freeze-Off began in spring 1980, when county extension agent Gordon Ford formed a committee to create the event. The inaugural Freeze-Off was held April 19, 1980 at the Civic Center, and the initial cost to eat was 25 cents per serving. 

The Freeze-Off’s first winner was Donna Wilhite, who continued on to win the contest several more times. She hailed her own farm’s fresh milk as the secret ingredient to her award-winning recipe. 

During the late 80s and early 90s, the Freeze-Off boomed. It was therefore moved to the VF Outlet. In the late 90s, the contest moved to the square. In 1997, the “little dips” kids portion of the Freeze-Off was added, as previously several children had entered but competed against adults. An ice cream eating contest was another, separate event held at the Dairy Festival, but eventually the two were merged. 

The modern contests’ categories include “Little Dips,” Classic (chocolate/ vanilla), fruit, and specialty. Only “real” dairy products may be used, and dairy substitutes are forbidden, according to the listed rules. Ice creams are judged on flavor, texture, body, color, melting quality, and uniqueness of recipe. 

Shannon Oaks Church took over the contest in 2019, and sadly in 2020 and 2021 there was no Freeze-Off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Freeze-Off returns in 2023 to much appreciation.

By Taylor Nye. Photos of 2019 Freeze-Off by Mandy Fiock. Historical photos from Hopkins County Echo

Written By
Taylor Nye

Taylor Nye is the editor of Front Porch News. She has degrees from the University of Wisconsin in human biology, Latin American studies, and public health. She has previously worked at the Wisconsin State Journal, Tucson Weekly and Sulphur Springs News-Telegram. As a sixth generation Hopkins County resident, she loves celebrating our heritage and history.