NEWS- Freeze out: Bomb pops not welcome at Lake

The first authentic ice cream truck to travel the byways of Charlottesville in more than a decade began making its rounds the last weekend in April, and while most neighborhoods are welcoming the sweet treats, at least one community– Lake Monticello– has banned the truck from its streets.

"The safety committee said it could create such a frenzy that kids could be hit by cars and fall into the ditches," says David Welsh, whose wife, Diane, owns the business, officially called Mobile Munchies.

Diane Welsh says she was stunned to learn she wouldn't be able to sell her confections in Lake Monticello– where she and David live with their four children. "We thought we just needed to tell them as a courtesy," she says, adding that the safety committee even balked when she offered to keep the truck parked in the Lake's beach parking lot rather than drive it through the lanes. 

"The funny thing is," says David, "this is coming from a community that doesn't put lifeguards at their beaches." (There are lifeguards at the pool and at the beach on the 4th of July.

Lake spokesperson Peggy Alexander declined comment on the Welshs' application, and the Welshes say they'll bring their ice cream truck case before the Lake Monticello Community Association at its monthly meeting later this month.

Lake Monticello isn't the first community to say no to ice cream on wheels. In 1967, after nine-year-old Donna Lynn O'Callaghan was killed by a car after buying ice cream from an ice cream truck in Des Moines, Iowa, that city banished the enterprise. Forty years later, the midwestern city's traffic safety committee voted against lifting the ban just last month.

"A four, five- or six-year-old with a dollar bill in her hand doesn't see left or right," Des Moines Police Sgt. Jack Beardsley, a committee member, told the Des Moines Register in an April 10, 2007 article. "I think they just see an ice cream truck."

In December 2006, a one-year-old girl was run over by an ice cream truck in Bradenton, Florida. The truck driver was cited for failing to have proper signs.

Charlottesville's last full-time ice cream business, dubbed "Big Lik" for one of its two trucks' license plates, was a fixture from the mid-1970s through the mid-'90s, with various local notables– including Hook art writer Laura Parsons– driving routes. Big Lik owner Will Kerner says he recalls two incidents– one in which a girl was struck by a car after the ice cream truck pulled away, and another when a boy jumped onto the side of the truck as it pulled away. He fell, and the truck ran over his leg. Miraculously, Kerner says, neither child was seriously injured.

The Welshes point out that any vehicle can be a danger to small children, and that, in the end, parents must supervise little ones playing near the road. For their part, the Welshes say they always drive slowly through neighborhoods and pull over as soon as they see or hear children. They have mirrors all around the vehicle and a window in the back for visibility.

Diane says she purchased the blue truck in southwest Virginia earlier this year with plans to start a mobile lunch business. But Welsh says that since the truck was set up for nostalgically named ice cream– Bomb Pops, Creamsicles, Nutty Buddies, Rockets and many others– she decided to ease into the business as weather warmed by starting with ice cream alone. The response, she says, has been "very positive."

Welsh says the truck will run throughout Charlottesville, Albemarle, Louisa, Greene and Fluvanna (except Lake Monticello) in the late afternoons and early evenings and on weekends. She hopes to have a formal schedule set soon, and is accepting neighborhood requests at icecream2u@yahoo.com.

Both Charlottesville and Albemarle have approved the truck, which operates as a home business and is licensed by the health department. County spokesperson Lee Catlin says Albemarle authorities aren't worried about the truck's safety, but they do have one concern.

"We're all hoping they'll come to our neighborhood," she laughs.


Diane and David Welsh run the Mobile Munchies ice cream truck.
PHOTO COURTESY DIANE WELSH

The tinkling tunes can be heard a block or more before the big turquoise truck pulls into sight, a mobile pied piper trailing throngs of squealing children in its wake. 

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12 comments

If I'm not mistaken, and I'm not, the constitution recognizes an unlimited right to contract. It doesn't say that you have an unlimited right to contract unless a bunch of prigs who have behinds the shape of their chairs say so.

Thank you for running a fair story. An ice cream is not worth any childs life. The HOA made the brave and correct decision in this case. I suggest the truck in question find a set location in Charlottesville to park and sell their goodies to sidewalk clients with no chassing involved.

We had an ice cream truck that made its rounds in the neighborhood when I was a kid. No one died or was seriously injured. This is the kind of "chicken little, the sky is falling" mentality that will eventually have our kids locked up inside and becoming fatter than ever because of frightened soccer moms who can't let their kids be kids. You take far more of a risk taking your kids to the grocery store in your car than letting them run after the ice cream man. The response is totally disproportionate to the problem but it makes someone feel good and that is a grand reason to tread upon the rights of the vendor. If you dont like the vendor... dont buy their products. What are you going to do when they turn 16 and get their drivers license? What silly argument are you going to make then?

Let's keep all the kids locked up in the house so they can safely watch TV and play their X-Box until their eyes glaze over.

Renee Hill- are you out of your mind? Yes, the Hook ran a fair story, but you have got to be kidding me. I agree 100% with Mark's statement. "Chicken little" defines it best.

seriously, folks, it's not like there's an epidemic of kids being slaughtered by wayward ice cream trucks. I live in Vermont and have never heard of an ice cream truck being responsible for an injury or death. Kids don't need to chase the trucks-they drive 3 mph in the neighborhood. Renee, find another soap box.

An ice cream truck is an awesome idea. I mean how many 3 or 4 year olds race out to get ice cream? If all those incidents have happened in the past thirty years,shouldn't parents supervise young children who are playing by the street? Seriously you should start watching over your young kids.

An ice cream truck wants to make business; so they're not going to speed through the street trying to race past houses. They're going to go at a pace around 4 or 5 miles per hour playing they're happy music. I have had an ice cream truck in my neighborhood for over 8 years. There have been no incidents or problems whatsoever.

thanks for the support everyone. Your comments are great. it does seem silly to have to fight a board over such a thing as an ice cream truck. surely there are numerous other issues they could find to be this concerned about. how about the fact that the beaches in our neighborhood have no lifeguards. that seems more dangerous than my truck. more kids die from drowning than ice cream trucks. they don't staff the beaches because they feel the parents should watch their children. i agree with that and the same thinking should be applied to this.
if anyone out there wants the truck in their neighborhood, just send me an email and I'll be happy to take a spin in your area.
thanks again,
Diane Welsh (ice cream truck owner)

One of the fondest memories that I have of my childhood is the excitement of hearing the music from the ice cream truck as it made it's way through our neighborhood. Granted, my mother actually took an interest in my safety, and supervised me so that I didn't run out recklessly into the street to purchase my goodies....

The email address is incorrect.

Wow this is nuts. One death in 40 years out of millions of chances. So many more kids drown in pools every day that HAVE lifeguards on duty.