Special from the Delaware State Fair

The Abbate family has a history of producing state fair champions. For more than a decade they have been entering the homemade ice cream competition.

Ruth Abbate, from Milford, said it’s a hobby that has transcended generations.

“I started out with my father over 20 years ago and we were grand champions for pineapple and strawberry,” she said.

When her dad passed away, her niece convinced her to continue the tradition.

“She and I have been grand champions for our chocolate peanut butter and this year we’re making chocolate peanut butter cookie.”

Abbate and niece, Kristen Mosiek were supported by Abbate’s son, granddaughter and Mosiek’s two children.

Contestants have 30 minutes to create and mix their ice cream. Judges take turns tasting each flavor. The winners are in two categories — fruit and other.

Abbate said the tradition has lasted because the family uses it to bring the family together.

“Every Easter we get together as a family and we throw our suggestions out, and then during the year we make ice cream and everybody tastes it to see what we like,” she said. “We just love ice cream.”

Trying to work under 100-plus-degree weather, however, proved to be a challenge for the most veteran ice cream maker.

“It’s hard to keep everything cold,” she said. “Bringing it from home and transporting it to the site, that’s the challenge. But once you get here they supply the ice and salt.”

Abbate tries to add the same amount of heart and effort that her father did decades ago. But the competition can be thick.

“Everybody here has their own little niche,” she said. “Some people cook it and they have eggs in it. Some use pudding. It really is a unique contest.”

Tradition isn’t limited the Abbate family.

The team of Heidi Russum, Samantha Boesenberg and Spencer Barnes, from Felton, have been using the same ice cream maker for the past 35 years.

Team leader Russum said she refused to let her father’s legacy disappear.

“My dad and I made it starting 35 years ago down here at the Delaware State Fair together, making it every single year,” she said. “He passed away four years ago, so my daughter and I are continuing the tradition with his ice cream maker.”

Russum uses a manual mixer where someone has to constantly crank a shaft. They have to use some ingenuity to keep the bucket from moving.

That’s where Boesenberg comes in. Her role is to sit on the bucket while Barnes cranks the shaft.

“I was cranking, but I’m pregnant, so I figured I’d be the weight to hold the bucket down,” she said.