Kathryn Rem: These folks know their Dippin' Dots
The Pulaski County grandparents who sell Dippin’ Dots in three locations at the Illinois State Fair really know their product. They should. Their son invented the flash-frozen beads of ice cream.
Dorothy and Milford Jones, who live near the town of Grand Chain at the southern tip of Illinois, are the parents of Curt Jones, a Southern Illinois University grad who 20 years ago discovered the technology that makes the icy nuggets possible.
“We’ve been at the Illinois fair 10 years, and before that we helped our daughter sell it there about five years,” Milford said.
The elder Joneses hope to sell 800 gallons of the stuff during the 10-day run of the fair.
Raised on the family farm near Grand Chain, Curt Jones graduated from Century High School in Pulaski County, attended Shawnee Community College in Ullin and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in microbiology from SIU in Carbondale.
After teaching in Southeastern Illinois College’s ethanol-production program and at Shawnee Correctional Center in Vienna, Curt was researching freezing techniques in 1987 when he came upon the Dippin’ Dots idea. He used liquid nitrogen to quick-freeze ice-cream ingredients, and the little beads were born.
He established the Dippin’ Dots company in 1988 and started to make the frozen pellets in his parents’ garage. In 1990, production moved to a former liquor store in Paducah, Ky., and that city is where the company remains headquartered.
Now Dippin’ Dots (which are certified kosher) are available at more than 1,500 theme parks, malls, stadiums, fairs and other venues throughout the nation. At the Illinois State Fair, the concessions are on Main Street, Grandstand Avenue and Central Avenue.
Although Dippin’ Dots are hardly new, they’re still billed as the “Ice Cream of the Future.”
“They call it that because of the way it’s made. It’s not a churned product,” said Dorothy.
Flavors include java delight, bubble gum, cotton candy, tropical tie dye and peanut butter chip, but Dorothy says the most popular flavor at the Illinois fair is banana split. New this year is moose tracks (vanilla ice cream and peanut butter cup).
In addition to ice cream, the three stands sell the beads in the form of orange sherbet, strawberry-cheesecake yogurt, rainbow ice and liberty ice (red, white and blue).
Not sure which flavor to pick? Ask for a free sample.
“We can mix whatever you want,” said Dorothy. “Lots of people mix up two or three flavors.”
The cost is $3 for a 5-ounce cup, $5 for an 8-ounce cup and $7 for a 12-ounce cup. It’s stored in electric freezers at the fair that maintain it at 50 degrees below zero.
Reactions vary when customers order the dots for the first time, said Milford.
One common response: “I see the toppings, but where’s the ice cream?”
Food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at 217-788-1520 or firstname.lastname@example.org.