By Kris Leonhardt
Have you ever been to a good old-fashioned ice cream social? What was once commonplace in American society is rarely found these days, but we are fortunate to have one that continues at one of Marshfield’s most historic locations.
It is widely believed that the first ice cream social was held in England during King Charles II’s reign. During the 1600s, ice cream had been considered a luxury, due to limited resources, and the rich delicacy was afforded only to nobility.
It wasn’t until the 1700s that ice cream became available to the average citizen.
At the start of the 19th century, commercial ice cream gardens – ice cream vending offered during summer months in a garden-like setting – began providing a public social vending for public purchase.
As the cost of ice cream began to decrease, churches and schools began following the lead of ice cream gardens, introducing the ice cream social as a fundraising event.
The event not only provided needed funds for public projects, but it also provided a social setting for people with common interests to enjoy fellowship.
This began a century-old tradition of pie and ice cream socials in the country.
The Marshfield area Jaycettes held their first pie and ice cream social at the Upham Mansion in 1979. Two years later, the Jaycettes would shift the fundraising efforts to benefit the North Wood County Historical Society.
A year later, the social was planned to coincide with the newly-established “Cheese Town USA” Dairy Fest.
In 1987, the Marshfield Altrusa Club took over hosting the event, and the fundraiser, which had previously fluctuated between late May and early June, stayed in the month of June.
The Altrusa club ran the social through 1992. From there, the event was placed in the hands of the North Wood County Historical Society itself.
The pie and ice cream social continues, in its 39th year, at the Governor William H. Upham House at 212 W. 3rd St., Marshfield. The annual event features live music, games, a self-guided House tour, raffles, and, of course, pie and ice cream.
The social continues to provide needed funds for the historical society, but also creates a setting for visitors to take a step back to a simpler time when socials were common place and people enjoyed the coolness of a wide front porch and a lawn filled with companionship.
This year’s event will be held June 2, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., in conjunction with Marshfield’s Dairyfest.