I scream, you scream, we all scream for…that quintessential symbol of summer. Matt Allen, aka Ice Cream Man has logged more than 20,000 miles to give away frozen confections at music festivals across the nation, posting photos and reviews along the way on his website. From kids to rock stars and everyone in between, it seems we all have something in common: we love ice cream. And, what could be better than getting free ice cream? Giving it!
You started out selling ice cream from a bicycle. What was the turning point that made you determined to give it away instead?
When I was at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, I wanted to buy an ice cream truck. I couldn’t afford it so I bought a three-wheeled bike instead. I added a cooler to the front then rode around town after my summer school classes. That was about eight years ago and ever since then I’ve always wanted to do something with “Ice Cream Man”. I was never sure exactly what but in early 2004 I decided to buy a truck then tracked down the owner of www.icecreamman.com and talked him into selling me the domain for less than what he paid for it. As I drove around Ashland, Oregon, I filmed over 70 hours and made a movie. At the end of the summer we threw a huge, free, ice cream social which was a huge success, and from that point on I knew that giving away free ice cream was what I really wanted to do.
It looks like you’re well on your way to your goal of giving away a million free ice cream treats. What’s the current count, and what will you do when you realize that dream?
The current count is probably just above 60,000 free frozen treats so far. I’m not much for numbers and doing things 100%. A lot of times that can take away from the journey and the fun. We’re definitely on our way and I anticipate the whole project will last six or seven years. Next year will be mostly national again, then after that the focus will be international and more community, random and non profit events and drive bys. Ice Cream Man is a six or seven year project. After that I’ll disappear for a while then pop up trying to do something no one’s ever done before.
You’ve given out ice cream backstage at numerous festivals. Who are some of the artists who have enjoyed your treats and what are some of your favorite moments in how is it received by them?
There have been so many. I just remembered the other day that I once gave Matt Groening and his son some ice cream. He gave me his business card and it had a big picture of Homer Simpson’s head on it. That was cool. For rock n’ rollers, there’ve been hundreds. Some of my personal favorites are Wayne from Flaming Lips, he loves anything strange and different – surprise!, The Shins – Dave used to be an ice cream man in Albuqueque, and Torq from Stars. He might be the biggest ice cream fan of all.
How is corporate sponsorship supporting you to do what you love and what do your sponsors get in return? How do the ice cream recipients respond to the additional schwag you’re passing out?
In a perfect world, for each festival/event, we’d have an ice cream sponsor and a financial sponsor. That would be enough to just help us stay on the road and cover our costs. A good example for benefits would be Guitar Center. They’ve been on board since day one. We’ll put logos on the truck, make available promotional material, and take load of pictures of people by the truck. Some of those pictures will end up in the press, like Elvis Costello and I on the cover of Austin Chronicle. It just so happens the Guitar Center logo is peeking out from behind us. We also do our best to thank our sponsors as much as possible because, without them, we wouldn’t be able to give away free ice cream. Julie’s Organic Ice Cream and Mochi Ice Cream have also helped us out a bunch by donating thousands of ice creams to give away. Generally for schwag, we make it available, as opposed to forcing it on people. I want people to know that it’s just free ice cream.
What’s the most popular treat that you give away and what is your favorite?
The Julie’s Organic treats are exceptionally popular ‘cause they’re a high end, organic ice cream bar. A lot of people love Mochi Ice Cream too. It’s a Japanese pastry with ice cream in the middle, kinda like a marshmallow bon bon. It’s fun to introduce them to people. Probably over 90% of folks like them but a few folks are always taken by the pastry part. I’m a huge fan of fruit bars and UFO’s/It’s It’s and face items like Pink Panther.
What’s next for Ice Cream Man?
We’ve got a few more events this year; Vegoose, Be the Riottt and ArthurNights, then I need to put up Christmas Lights to make a few bucks. There’ll be a lot of major restructuring around here with a new site and hopefully a warehouse.
Find out where you can get your free ice cream at icecreamman.com