ARROW ROCK — The license plates at Arrow Rock's annual homemade ice cream competition read like a state atlas — Jackson County, Saline County, St. Louis County — and the menu read like a dentist's nightmare.
Each year, the Ice Cream Freeze-Off attracts about 150 visitors to Arrow Rock, population 56. And each year, Mary Burge, 84, has hauled her sweets to the grassy lawn next to the J. Huston Tavern. It's been 14 years since the first ice cream contest, and even if the flavors have gotten a little more exotic — peach-blueberry cobbler, pineapple and Fat Elvis were popular this year — Burge said the village hasn't changed a bit.
"The idea to make homemade ice creams and cakes — and have people come and be friendly and love our town — I don't think has changed," she said.
The ice cream vendors arrived around 4 p.m., after the heat started fading. They came prepared with coolers, ice buckets and and plenty of helpers. Haley Imhoff, 7, and her brother Clayton, 5, were helping their parents serve scoops of Fat Elvis, a mixture of chocolate and banana.
“It's become a tradition in our family,” said Kathy Borgman, who's entered the contest every year since it started. “We just all know we are going to get together on the Saturday of Labor Day (weekend) and do this.”
The event was scheduled for 4:30 p.m., but a few dozen tasters couldn't wait that long. "We've been waiting for several weeks," said Marcy McGuigan, one of the people who trickled in while the tables were still being set up.
By 5 p.m. the vendors' tables were swamped. A judge sat off to the side, tallying votes for best ice cream. But the real competition was among the tasters; the tasting cups were the size of a golf ball, just enough to make you want more. People would linger around their favorite flavors, chatting with the vendor in hopes of scoring a third or fourth scoop.
At the end of the line, the tasters were rewarded with a full scoop and a slice of cake.
As the line started to shorten and vendors started scraping the bottoms of their buckets, it was time. The results were in: Angela Green-Ford snagged first place with her coconut ice cream.
She said she's already thinking about next year's flavor.
Supervising editor is Adam Aton.