Delaware ice cream festival is back!

After a five year hiatus, Delaware’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival at Rockwood Park is making a comeback, thanks to a private-public partnership.

New Castle County put the kibosh on the popular ice cream festival in 2007 due to funding.

“The problem was it had grown to be a very big event, and it was funded almost solely by county funds,” said New Castle County Executive Paul Clark. “And in a time when those funds aren’t rolling in like they used to, it was impossible to maintain it, and the previous administration decided that it couldn’t afford it.”

Per suggestions from the community, event producer Barry Schlecker approached the county about reinstating the festival, and Clark signed on. Schlecker has produced events such as the Brandywine Festival of the Arts and the Newark and Wilmington film festivals.

“We’re being practical about what we spend… We’re asking local business people if they want to get their product or service hopefully in front of 5-10,000 people a day this would be a natural place for them to come,” said Schlecker. “We also want to keep people engaged all day so we want to make it a place where families will come and spend the day.”

And Schlecker says there will be plenty to do and eat, including family games, great music on two stages and of course, lots of ice cream. Schlecker says 6 local dairies have signed on along with 20 local restaurants.

Clark says the county will lease the park grounds to Schlecker for $1 and provide limited police services, electricity and other staffing at the expected cost of about $5,000. The county will also receive a percentage of the proceeds from the gate, which will go towards preservation of the grounds and mansion at Rockwood.

“He’s leasing the property and we think it’s something we can bring back to the community, it won’t cost the taxpayer dollars and I’m all in favor of bringing as many people into our parks as possible,” said Clark.

Delaware’s ice cream festival started in 1979 and Schlecker hopes this year’s event will draw 8,000 people a day. The Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival at Rockwood Park runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 7 and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 8. Admission price is $5 for adults and $1 for kids 12 and under, who are entitled to a free scoop.  

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