By Resident Dale Seiberling —
Just a few minutes before noon on Oct. 16, 2017—a glorious fall afternoon, 13 Kendal residents boarded the Kendal bus for an interesting journey to nearby Utica, Ohio. Ten “gentlewomen” and three gentlemen were soon on their way through the fall agriculture of central Ohio on a journey to Velvet Ice Cream Company. The journey had been arranged by Betty Hullinger. The purpose was to explore the source of nature’s (and the Ohio Dairy Industries’) most satisfying dessert, a twice-a-day feature of Kendal’s “Bistro” Dining facility, though never on the menu.
Within 25 minutes driver Tom had traversed 15 miles of OH16, OH601 and OH62, on a lovely drive over rolling country terrain, with only three traffic lights en route. Two fields of beans and one of corn had been harvested along the way, and combines were working in one field of each near Utica.
Upon leaving the bus at our destination we found our way by Ye Olde Mill to a room where we were immediately engaged in learning about The Ice Cream Capital of Ohio, and its history of 103 years and four generations of the Drager family. Some of us then saw the Museum of Milling as we moved toward the Visitors Center, where several of the third and fourth generation of Dragers were soon speaking to us from a TV screen as our tour guide joined us for our visit. Her opening remarks established the background for the remainder of the story.
Soon we were on our way to the Ice Cream Museum, where we saw a nice variety of memorabilia of America’s developing ice cream industry at the turn of the 20th century, 100 plus years ago. In this area we saw ice cream dippers, milkshake machines, and one of the original ice cream freezers, capable of making 8 quarts in each batch. Today Velvet can produce more than 1,800 gallons each hour, and more than 5,000,000 gallons per year in the form of 3-gallon containers, 56-ounce naturals, half-gallons, pints, 3-ounce and 4-ounce cups, sandwiches and Power Pops.
Then we moved on to the Ice Cream Viewing Gallery, an attractive room equipped with bleachers facing large windows overlooking the production (freezing and packaging) area and two TV screens. Our guide shared much information of interest about what we were observing, and about the related operations that we could not see: i.e., mix batching, pasteurization, homogenization, transfer to storage tanks for aging, and finally supply to the flavoring center prior to freezing. Some ice cream production equipment from the ’50s and ’60s was also in this room, a filler, fruit feeder, mix supply vat, and a first generation continuous freezer, similar to one with which your author had personal experience at Hopewell Dairy, Bellefontaine, Ohio, in the mid’50s.
The really good stuff came at the end, as we moved into the Ice Cream Store and Wheel Room Restaurant for a delightful lunch before rejoining Tom for the ride back to Kendal at Granville.