The fourth annual Ice Cream for America party ran out of cookies 'n' cream early. It seems certain senators and representatives had more than their fair share.
"Ooh, I knew it," fumed Sharon Bowden, 20, an intern for Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.). "They always think of themselves before others."
Just about everyone else enjoyed the frozen fete, sponsored by the International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers yesterday afternoon in the courtyard of the Russell Senate Office Building. The honorable members of the Senate Child Care Center dribbled sugary goo, the seven-piece Federal Jazz Commission played swing, the top bananas of the ice cream industry had their pictures snapped with members of Congress, and thousands of staffers and guests milled about enjoying the ice cream, the sun and the break from work.
Sen. Paula Hawkins (R-Fla.), looking cheerful despite her back brace, came for the "great weather, ice cream and being an American. They go together." She left after a few minutes. Without ice cream.
For Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), it was a pleasant reminder of childhood. "I grew up on a farm," he said. "We had cows. We milked them and we made ice cream . . . I've been eating it ever since."
Sen. Mark Andrews (R-N.D.) struck an egalitarian tone vis-a -vis flavor choice. "It doesn't make a difference, as long as it's ice cream," he said, praline cone in hand. When a scooper offered him a chocolate cup he smilingly accepted that, too.
Though less formal and perhaps more fun than most congressional parties, this one had its political side, too. "I work very hard with the Milk Industry Foundation on the dairy issue," said Rep. Jim Olin (D-Va.), "so I have a lot of friends now who've been very helpful to me. And I like ice cream, so I wouldn't think of missing it."
Executives of 250 manufacturers of ice cream and related products from across the country were happy to reciprocate. "Our industry uses 10 percent of the country's milk supply," said Ron Marley, president of Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream and cochairman of yesterday's heavenly-hash hoopla. "We tell them we're working hard to get rid of the farm surplus, and we'd like to get rid of a lot more of it -- ship it overseas, whatever."
A scooper in the VIP tent, answering the common, innocent and politely put question "What's that?," said, "It's Mocha Almond Fudge And If You Go To Any Of The Blue And White Stations You Can Get Served This Area Is For Members Of Congress Only." Her concern about not-so-important-persons crowding the area was understandable: After the House recessed, about two dozen legislators posed for pictures there with scoops, cones and businessmen.
With eyes focused on the Very Important People and their Very Important Pistachio, hardly anyone gave the Evolution of the Ice Cream Dipper display, only a few feet away, the attention it deserved. The work of letter carrier Wayne Smith of Frederick, Md., it featured a few of his hundred or so big and little dippers. They represented the Pioneer Era, 1876-1900 (when ice cream scoops looked like Viking relics), the Innovative Era, 1900-1910 (loaded with springs, cranks and levers), the Novelty Era, 1920-1930 (rectangles, hearts, triangles, curves) and the Depression Era (depressing).
But no one ignored New York models Jessica Molloy and Claire Cornish. They turned heads with their headdresses -- one wore a plastic banana boat, and the other wore a chocolate-coated ice cream bar.