Scooper Bowl History
The Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl® was quietly born in June 1983 under the blaze of the summer sun. Just four sole ice cream partners stood scooping, dripping, and melting their way through six hours, serving cup after sweet cup of ice cream to about a thousand Boston Common visitors who, for $1, slurped up as much as their hearts desired.
Ambitious representatives from Brigham's, Bailey's, Emack & Bolio, and Hendries had answered the call of New England Dairy Festival organizers who wanted to serve ice cream to the thousands of tourists and school children who had traveled to Boston for the annual dairy celebration. Known simply as the "ice cream fundraising event" to those who scooped, and most likely as "an oasis" to those who ate, this one hot day was the sticky start to the largest all–you–can–eat ice cream festival in the world.
Celebrating its 35th year in 2017, the Scooper Bowl is now a three-day event that dishes out 20 tons of the summer's finest ice cream to more than 40,000 ice cream lovers from across the nation. Made possible by the generous contributions of the industry's largest ice cream companies, the Scooper Bowl has raised more than $5 million in the past 33 years for cancer research and patient care at the world-renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
"The first year was quite an experience," said Darrlyn Leikauskas, director of marketing at Brigham's. "We didn't have a tent. We didn't have chairs. There we stood, four people elbow deep in melting ice cream behind four ice cream freezers on the side of a hill."
Leikauskas had taken the call from a woman at the Federation of the Milk Market Administration and gathered her peers from the other ice cream companies to participate. A suggestion by Hendries Founder, the late Don White, to make the event a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund was met with instant approval by the other vendors. That first year, the foursome raised $1,000 for the Jimmy Fund.
By the very next year, the ice cream fundraiser was named the Scooper Bowl. Ice cream companies Friendly's, Howard Johnson's, and Steve's joined the original four, and the partners rented a tent to shield them and their temperature-sensitive products from the sun. The revenues jumped to $12,500 that year.
"The event has been booming ever since," said White, who presided over the Scooper Bowl board for 28 years after selling Hendries to HP Hood. Eighteen Scooper Bowls later, in June 2001, the Scooper Bowl raised more than $100,000.
While part of the Dairy Festival, the Scooper Bowl garnered the attention of most festivalgoers, often becoming the highlight of the event. For years, Boston's mayors closed off the streets around the Common to make way for a special parade, and schools repeatedly sent students to the festival to learn about dairy products and their nutritional value.
In 1996, the New England Dairy Festival celebrated its last summer in Boston, setting the Scooper Bowl out on its own. The next summer, the event moved to Boston's City Hall Plaza where it remains today.
From competition to camaraderie and contribution
Perhaps what is most striking about the now famous ice cream festival is that all ice cream companies donate all the ice cream, labor, scoopers, and products needed to make the event happen each year. Though they are competitors for 51 weeks of the year, during the first week of June they come together to create an event that is now known as the "unofficial start of summer" in New England.
Most of the companies that participated in 2016 have been an integral part of the event for more than 14 years.
Weather has always been a big factor in holding the Scooper Bowl. In 2000, torrential downpours and high winds closed the event down within hours of its opening ceremony and people wore overcoats to ward off the unseasonably cold weather. In 2006, patrons donned ponchos to fight the June Nor'easter that came through. 2011 was a different story with the heat rising to the 90s, which definitely helped draw in more ice cream enthusiasts! No matter what the weather brings—it certainly doesn't bring down the spirit of the event!