The 33rd annual Utica Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival will be held May 24-26.

The 33rd annual Utica Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival will be held May 24-26.

The popular event will be held in the lawns at The Energy Cooperative and Velvet Ice Cream, along state Route 13 in Utica.

The Utica Sertoma Club started the festival in 1975 as a way for the club to raise funds and provide services to the local community.

"All the money goes back to the community," event organizer Paul Palumbo said.

The club now supports the festival in conjunction with LaSertoma, the LaSertoma spinoff called the Y.E.S. (Youth Excelling in Service) club and the Northridge Serteens. Palumbo said those four provide different services to the community, such as supporting the local food pantry, providing speech and hearing materials to the North Fork Local School District and offering various scholarships, for example.

What began as a fundraiser, however, has been churned into much more.

"It's one of our biggest festivals and our most highly attended," said Susan Fryer, executive director of the Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We draw a lot from Knox County because of its proximity but also from Muskingum and Franklin counties."

The event features entertainment, food and more than 100 artists and craftsmen selling everything from hand-made leather purses and chain-saw carvings to clay pots and candles.

Games, magic shows and sheep-herding demonstrations are featured daily, along with the popular ice cream-eating contest. Palumbo said this year's reigning champion, Dan Hall, will see if he's up for the challenge. Last year, he ate nine pints of vanilla ice cream in eight minutes.

The only event that has been taken out of the festival this year is the queen contest. Palumbo said increasing travel costs associated with the queen's duties forced organizers to withdraw the contest.

The event is held rain or shine. Palumbo said weather could affect attendance but said people are willing to seek refuge under the craft tents if it rains and wait it out.

Last year, he said, festival crews parked 6,000 cars in the three days of the festival. Parking is available behind The Energy Cooperative's building for $5.

For more information on the ice cream festival, visit www.uticaoldfashionedicecreamfestival.com.

lwince@thisweeknews.com