By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 14, 2024 at 9:01 AM

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In recent years, Cedar Crest Ice Cream has sporadically served that Milwaukeeist of treats – frozen custard – at Summerfest. But not this year.

In 2018, the Cedarburg-based ice cream maker offered a variety of frozen custard flavors at its Summerfest stand near the north end of the grounds, including #LUV Peanut Butter, Mint Mack Island, vanilla, caramel cone, butter pecan and strawberry cheesecake.

These were available in dishes and cones, as Molly Snyder pointed out in her 2021 article asking why there was no custard at the Big Gig.

Cedar Crest gave it another go after that, too, says the company's Marketing Manager Shannon Simon, offering custard in pints.

"It was a short lived," she says. "I want to say 2022-2023."

When I visited recently the Henry Maier Festival Park for this story, I saw the Cedar Crest sign advertising custard and reached out to Simon.

old sign
Last year's sign, now replaced.

"I hate to bear the bad news, but we discontinued offering the custard pints at our Summerfest stand this year," she says. "We will only be scooping ice cream and a limited selection of sorbet.

"New signage and the menu boards were just installed this week."

Milwaukee World Festival confirmed that no other vendors at the Big Gig will serve frozen custard this year.

Simon says that the custard, like Cedar Crest's ice cream, is made at their facility in Manitowoc.

"We make all our bases (mix) from scratch at our facility, and locally source our cream and ingredients," she adds. "We pack up the containers and ship them down to store in our giant freezer at -20 degrees in Cedarburg where we then distribute three-gallon tubs to parlors, and the pints/quarts to retail stores.

"According to our event manager, they’d rather use the storage freezer to stock up on the ice cream tubs so that they don’t have to deliver the ice cream every day."

The fact that the custard was sold in pints was a hindrance, Simon notes.

"We only offer frozen custard in pints," she says. "Very few customers would purchase it (at the festival). Unless they were able to share or commit to eating a whole pint, there was no way to keeping it cold for the day."

Honestly, I'm not surprised by this development because to properly do frozen custard is expensive, as I told Molly for her article in 2021.

“To properly make custard, one needs a proper custard machine, which is not the same as a soft serve machine – they work differently and create different consistencies. Custard machines are very expensive, which is why some custard stands choose to run custard mix through a soft serve machine,” I told her.

“I suspect few vendors are willing to make the investment in a machine and dipping cabinet to store the custard in, on top of what are likely already significant investments in rent and fees to be on-site at a large festival, plus labor, insurance and other costs."

And then my fellow frozen custard devotee, chef and owner of Dairyland Burgers and Custard in the 3rd St. Market Hall, Kurt Fogle, had my back.

"Think about the logistical differences between offering ice cream and frozen custard (and) it start(s) to make sense," he said.

“To serve ice cream, you need a freezer, a sink, a couple of scoops and a cash register. Pretty easy and cheap to do.

"In order to serve frozen custard appropriately, you would need all of that plus enough batch freezers to keep up with the demand. That’s big money, lots of electricity and triple the workforce."

I hope this classic Milwaukee treat returns to Summerfest someday. But for now, we're happy to keep supporting our beloved local custard stands on our way to or from the Big Gig.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.