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Snow cones warm community

Staff writer

When Bray Clark, 3, sticks his tongue out, it’s obvious what flavor of snow cone he chose at The Igloo in Hillsboro.

Blue raspberry.

“That’s what he gets every time,” his mom, Tina Clark, says.

The Igloo is hopping.

The Clark family has just finished up a baseball game. The Clarks often stop by for an icy treat, especially with temperatures near 100 degrees.

The Igloo serves not only 50 flavors of snow cones. It also serves up community.

Families chat in line and at picnic tables that line the business on D St.

As soon as it opens at 7 p.m. for evening hours, a family of five children and father make their way across the street. The children — four boys and a girl — stare intently at a menu board, trying to figure out what flavor to order.

There’s a lot to choose from — banana, black cherry, blue bubble gum, cherry, cotton candy, Dreamsicle, mango, red raspberry, red velvet cake, root beer, strawberry cheesecake, vanilla, and more.

Kyle Epp, 11, has tried all 50 flavors already this summer, making him the first “Epic Eskimo” of the season.

The Loewen family, which owns the hot spot, recognizes customers who make their way through the menu despite brain freezes. Kyle and other Epic Eskimos get their names on a special board and choose a prize.

The Igloo opened May 19 this year, and Kyle started the challenge on the snow cone stand’s fifth day. He finished June 24.

“I definitely did not want to try dill pickle,” Kyle says.

But he got through it.

He’d already tried a lot of flavors.

“I really wanted to try daiquiri,” he says.

Thirteen customers went through the menu last year.

So far, Kyle is the only one to do so this year.

The Loewen family bought The Igloo in 2016. They’re the third owners in Hillsboro. The Igloo started in Liberal. It’s been in Hillsboro for 20 years.

“I started working here for the previous owners when I was 16,” says Tena Loewen, who operates the stand with her father, Dave.

The Igloo goes through half a dozen to a dozen 10-pound blocks of ice a day. The average is eight. An off-site machine makes 40 blocks at a time, Dave Loewen says.

They use a reverse osmosis system.

“It goes through six filters so it tastes like bottled water,” he says.

Employees don’t crush the ice.

“It’s shaved,” he says. “That makes a difference. The flavor doesn’t just go to the bottom.”

On Friday, The Igloo served 235 snow cones. The average is 150 to 200 a day, Tena Loewen says.

The three top flavors as of Monday were silver fox, which tastes like wedding cake; tiger blood, a mix of passion fruit and coconut; and blue raspberry. silver fox and tiger blood are always in close competition, Tena Loewen says.

“Some people like candy flavors that are really sweet, and some like the more fruity ones,” her dad says.

Toward the end of the season, The Igloo serves a flavor of the week, partly to try out new flavors.

“Sometimes they’re total duds,” Tena Loewen says.

Unpopular flavors have included black licorice and pink grapefruit.

Hillsberry Pie will be the flavor July 16 to 22. It’s a mix of berries. Lemon meringue is up July 23 to 29. Natural orange — with no artificial anything — will be serviced July 30 to Aug. 5.

Shark Bite, on the menu Aug. 6 to 12, “is an experience,” Tena Loewen says. It comes with a small plastic shark on top. The shark swims in either blue or green ice — the customer’s choice. As the snow cone recedes, the ice turns red.

A Sunflower Showdown snow cone pitting the University of Kansas versus Kansas State University will be on the menu Aug. 13 to 19.

Employees help choose flavors of the week. The Igloo employs five people, all of whom are high school students or recent high school graduates.

“Something we love with the business is being able to supply a job that’s flexible,” Dave Loewen says.

The Loewens pay one of their employees more to manage social media.

The Igloo isn’t just about business, the Loewens say. The family sources supplies from local businesses as much as possible. Sugar, cups, and spoons come from Dale’s Supermarket.

The Igloo’s mission statement is that it is where people are blessed, community is experienced, and connections are formed.

“We see a lot of community happening here,” Dave Loewen says.

Last modified July 6, 2023

 

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