Latrobe’s Great American Banana Split Celebration is returning with an in-person format featuring entertainment and activities Aug. 21 at Legion Keener Park.
After pandemic restrictions prompted the switch to a virtual festival in 2020, “We’re very excited to be able to return to an in-person format,” said Briana Tomack, president and CEO of the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the annual event. “This celebration helps the chamber fulfill its mission to promote tourism and economic growth in Latrobe.”
Though construction is winding down on improvements to several key intersections in Latrobe, the venue for this year’s festival was moved to the park, from streets in the heart of downtown, to avoid any potential disruption.
“We didn’t know what the situation with the roads would be,” Tomack said.
“It’s a change of pace,” she said. “We’re planning some different things.”
There should be plenty of room at the park to accommodate planned activities, including a farmers market, a classic car show and food and craft vendors, according to Craig Shevchik, executive director of Greater Latrobe Parks and Recreation, which operates the park owned by the Latrobe Foundation.
“It will be a little bit different atmosphere” at the park, Shevchik said of the festival. “We’re still working out the locations where we’ll put the vendors.”
Though alcoholic beverages normally aren’t permitted in the park, some vendors will be offering tasting of beer and wine samples.
“Vendors will be allowed to serve tasting cups and they’ll be able to sell beer and wine for taking home, but not for consumption at the event,” Tomack said.
Pets also aren’t allowed at the park, except for service animals.
Most aspects of the festival will be running from noon to 8 p.m., with the car show ending at 4 p.m. There is a $10 fee to enter a vehicle in the show.
The park bandstand will be the setting for a pie-eating contest, at 2 p.m., presentation of the banana split princess and her court, at 4:45 pm., and a variety of live music and entertainment, ending with a yet-to-be-determined headlining act, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
The day will begin with the Parks and Recreation organization’s annual 5K Banana Run, beginning at 9:30 a.m. at Latrobe’s Memorial Stadium.
Participants can visit bananasplit.run to enter as a runner or walker and vie for prizes awarded to top finishers in several categories. Registration costs $20 by Aug. 6, $25 afterward.
In advance of the festival, the banana split princess pageant will be held on Aug. 15 at a location to be determined. The pageant is open to girls ages 9-11 who live within the Derry Area, Greater Latrobe or Ligonier Valley school districts. Contestants are required to attend practice sessions on July 19 and Aug. 2 and 9.
Also, a Yellow Tie Gala is planned for 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 20, hosted by the Latrobe Art Center. Featured will be music by Neon Swing X-Perience, hors d’oeurves by Ricolita’s Cafe, an open bar and a dessert station, including banana splits, with the Latrobe Dairy Queen.
Dress is semi-formal or something yellow. The cost is $50 for art center members, $60 for others, with RSVP by Aug. 13 by visiting latrobeartcenter.org/events-1 or phoning 724-537-7011.
The festival celebrates Latrobe’s claim as the birthplace of the banana split. Apprentice pharmacist David Strickler is said to have created the ice cream treat while working at Latrobe’s Tassel Pharmacy.