MURRAY — Murray native Jamie Futrell said the Murray Ice Cream Festival always brings a big smile to his face.
That is because he knows of how it came to be in the place where he was born and raised in the first place. That story starts with it originally not being slated to be a Murray event.
“Here is what happened,” said Futrell, longtime Paducah general manager for the several radio stations owned by Metropolis, Illinois-based Bristol Broadcasting Systems, a co-sponsor of the festival that was in its 20th year this past weekend. Futrell is an alum of both Calloway County High School and Murray State University.
“At that time, the folks at Purity Dairy came to us and said, ‘Hey! We want to do a big ice cream social and we want to give away free ice cream and we want to do it in Paducah.’ We said, ‘Well, you know that Paducah already has got so many events going on, you’d be just another event in Paducah.’ But with me being a Murray native, I told them that if we’d go and do this event in Murray, Murray would love that because they would appreciate something like that and we’d be bringing another event to town.
“And we were right.”
Twenty years and three location changes later, the Murray Ice Cream Festival appears to be a permanent fixture for the first weekend in September each year on the city’s court square, where it has been the past several years. Its first year was at Central Park before spending a few more years at Chestnut Park.
“That first year, we had over 2,000 people show up. I think we’ll probably end up finishing, though, with about 5,000 to 7,000, so that shows how much it has grown,” Futrell said.
Those numbers also put a smile on the face of Murray Main Street Inc. Program Manager Deana Wright, whose agency is the event’s other co-sponsor.
“It’s nice outside. We’ve got a nice crowd downtown and, of course, there’s free ice cream. That’s awesome,” Wright said as she watched the scene unfold Saturday from her vantage point under a tent at the intersection of South Fifth and Maple streets. “We put this on to get people out to our downtown and I hear stories from some of our businesses that this is the next best day to the Christmas shopping season.
“Some of these people have never been to downtown, so to have them here and see what’s here, whether they’re here for the ice cream or a car show or to just jump on some inflatables, is a wonderful opportunity. At least they know where downtown is now and they’ll come back and experience another great day later of shopping or eating.”
Among those first-time visitors was the family of Kyle and Sarah Walker of Paducah, and they were hard to miss. Their children, Joelee, 1, and Linley, 6, came dressed for the occasion in white dresses emblazoned with several ice cream cone designs.
“We came here just because of the Ice Cream Festival. They love ice cream so we had to come down here,” Sarah said. “The kids love ice cream, we love ice cream. It’s just a good family time and we’re having a great time.”
Count Murray’s Lawton Bogue, 11, of Murray, as a satisfied visitor. Upon obtaining his cup of cookies n’ cream Saturday from one of the many booths offering the free treat, he seemed to transform into the proverbial kid in a candy store.
“Oh, I’m very happy. I like ice cream,” he said, adding that he would returning to the other booths throughout the afternoon in search of his favorite flavor. “That’s Chocolate Chip Paradise.”
Kroger supplied the ice cream for everyone on the square Saturday, as well as for the annual Murray Bank Scooper Bowl for local charities on Friday night. That event generated about $3,800 that was split among several nonprofits.
Those nonprofits were: Neartown Recover, Murray-Calloway County Homeless Coalition, Soup for the Soul and the Murray-Calloway County Senior Citizens Center.