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The Cold War is finally over. The dark days of banning ice cream trucks in Aurora have officially ended, and kids across the city can once again answer the sweet, sweet siren call of roving trucks hurling drum sticks, creamsicles, and choco tacos.
As absurd as it sounds today, many cities — including Denver — banned ice cream trucks in the last century, though most have since reintroduced them. Aurora was the last frozen dairy dessert it originally banned in 1957. For the most part, it was an annoyance — the little jingle the trucks played to let kids know they were around was found too loud and annoying for local residents — plus, there were safety concerns for the kids who ran after them.
Aurora council member Dustin Zvonek proposed the new regulation to lift the ban. (His ice cream truck order: the red-white-blue Bomb Pop.) He had formed an ad hoc committee focused on cutting bureaucracy and updating outdated laws, and that’s when he came across the ice cream truck restriction. Aurora City Council unanimously passed the ordinance in late June, and today ice cream trucks can once again roam the streets handing out frozen treats to Aurora kids (and not-so-kids, because when it comes to strawberry shortcake bars, age is fair a number.)
“I’ve been in business for 25 years and it’s amazing; it’s still a thrill. People still enjoy listening to this jingle. When you hear that ice cream truck, you know it’s summer,” says Paul Capley, longtime advertising executive for Ice Cream Wagon (who’d rather grab a King Cone).
Capley and Ice Cream Wagon received Aurora’s first ice cream truck license after Capley said he gave up the city. After trying unsuccessfully to change the laws years ago, he didn’t think he’d ever see the day when Ice Cream Wagon could deploy its 50-truck fleet to the area. Now they have to learn the streets and neighborhoods.
“We don’t even know Aurora,” says Capley. (The most popular item on the trucks is the SpongeBob ice cream, by the way. We know you’ve been wondering that.) “We have so many routes that we’ve been driving for so many years, we have to try to figure out Aurora.” With something set in stone for so long, I figured we’d never go there.”
But since the ordinance was passed, Zvonek says, the city has issued several new licenses, meaning freedom — and that telltale ice cream truck jingle — is ringing again today.
Where to go ice cream truck hunting
You may have noticed that spying on ice cream trucks has gotten more difficult in recent years. Ice Cream Wagon’s Paul Capley says workers have been harder to find since COVID, meaning they have only been able to send around half of their fleet of 50 trucks. We asked Capley for tips on how to maximize our chances of catching the elusive ice cream truck.
days: On weekdays, Capley says they only run 10-15 trucks, and that covers the entire metro area, from Fort Collins to Castle Rock. However, all trucks are out on weekends, which means Saturdays and Sundays statistically have the best chance of hitting the mark.
Time: The peak selling time for ice cream on a weekday is from 5:30 p.m. to sunset. Drivers know that parents are out of work and are more likely to put up with whiny children. The weekends are free for everyone, so you can come at any time.
Area: Shared apartments are the focal point for trucks, with bonus points for parks, swimming pools, and larger gatherings like soccer tournaments. Capley also says trucks like to keep moving to maximize the number of people they can feed. This makes it harder for you, dear ice cream truck hunter, to catch one, but it’s all about the thrill of the hunt.
Modern versions of the classic ice cream truck are easier to find: they tend to stay in an advertised location. (Have you seen gas prices these days?) Here are a few updates to look out for around town when a drum stick just won’t do.
Several dairies have taken to the streets (and local farmers markets). Look for ice cream scoops from trucks like Em’s, Sweet Cow, and High Point Creamery.
New Zealand style ice cream
Happy Cones trucks are two-thirds sweet cream and one-third fresh fruit like strawberries and peaches, and are mostly for private events, but you’ll often find them at City Park Jazz.
HipPOPS takes fresh gelato, sticks it on a stick, dips it in Belgian chocolate, then lets you choose what to dip it in. Crushed pistachios? rainbow sprinkles? Your gelato destiny is in your hands.
Read more: Denver’s Best Ice Cream Shops