For nearly a century…
There has been a debate going on in Ohio and Pennsylvania with regards to whom is responsible for creating and serving the first banana split. The residents of Wilmington, Ohio stand by their claim that the well-known ice cream dessert got its start in their little Midwestern town in the early 1900s and have even gone so far as to create any entire annual festival to celebrate its existence.
The story of the Festival began at a restaurant called Hazard’s that was located in downtown Wilmington. The owner of the restaurant was a man by the name of Ernest Hazard and Ernest was looking for a way to draw business into his diner. It was a cold winter in 1907 and business was particularly slow. Hazard came up with the idea to have a contest amongst his employees to see who could create a dish that was so unique that it would draw curious customers in from around the city. Employees were offered unlimited ingredients to create the newest menu offering.
Ernest participated in the contest.
Along with the rest of the staff, and his entry ended up being the winning dish. He selected a long dessert dish, added a banana and three scoops of ice cream, a shot of syrup, some strawberry jam and a bit of pineapple. To top it all off, he added a mound of whipped cream and a handful of nuts. The dish was an immediate hit with the employees and those who sampled it.
After he won the contest, Hazard struggled with a name for his new concoction. He turned to a cousin, Clifton Hazard, to seek advice in coming up with the perfect name. Clifton suggested calling it a “Banana Split.” Ernest thought the name was a horrible idea because he could not conceive of the idea that anyone would come into a diner and request something called a banana split. He could not have been more wrong. The dish was so popular that to this day, thousands of people flock to Wilmington for the Annual Banana Split Festival each June to sample old-fashioned banana splits and to hear locals retell the story of how the dish was invented by a bored shop owner on a cold winter day at the turn of the century.